This past Saturday evening was the culminating meal of our food, culture and history tour through Ireland. The entire group was seated for dinner in the stunning Cellar Bar at the Merrion Hotel. The setting was perfect and one of the reasons we selected the location. Hand cut stone walls gave way to arches that were themselves a perfect combination of history, tradition and class. The conversation was flowing amongst the 16 people seated around the table. In the short time since we received our first round of drinks two people at the table had already offered toasts that thanked us for bringing them all together and reminisced about the week.
These toasts reinforced how pleased Christina and I were with how the week had gone. Decades of research, travel, and the formation of meaningful relationships provided the foundation for the months of preparation and planning it took for Christina and I to create the opportunity to share some of our favorite people in the world in some of our favorite places in the world with everyone who participated.
It was educational, magical, intense, fulfilling and nourishing all at the same time. I wanted desperately to say something powerful with my own toast, but failed to find the words. The week had been so magical that I was worried anything I could possibly say would not be worthy of the incredible experience we all shared and cheapen it in some way. That is when I noticed the problem.
The table was too small.
In fact, it was embarrassingly small. Here we were celebrating the culmination of a trip of a lifetime and we were all awkwardly crammed around the table. We were literally shoulder to shoulder with barely enough room for our arms to properly use a knife and fork, or, god forbid even hold a pint. The legs of the table blocked some of our knees and there wasn’t enough room for all of the plates.
Cramming a group this tightly into a theater or bus or classroom would have been a disaster. But, I heard no complaints. In fact, what I witnessed as I looked down the length of the table was something magical. Everyone was engaged in laughter and conversation. I saw smiles and nods, and pats on the shoulder. Many of us were strangers merely a week earlier but had come together during a trip that was centered around sharing food.
In her book, Fire: the spark that ignited human evolution, author Francis Burton postulates that the way in which we share food is uniquely human. And, I would take that a step further and suggest that is also a large part of what actually makes us human.
So much beyond nutrients are shared around a table
and that is exactly what I was witnessing that night.
So, that was the basis of my toast. It just so happens that one of the things I say all the time is, “one of the best problems to have is a table that is too small.” A table that is too small means that you are surrounded by people engaged in one of the most meaningful things we do as humans – share food.
Our table that night was way too small.
And, it was a wonderful problem indeed.