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Filling the belly and the soul


The simple act of preparing a meal for another person does more than just fill the belly, it also has the potential to ignite the soul.

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The last thing many of us want to do at the end of a long work day is wash, peel and cook fresh produce. Yet, done mindfully, the simple act of food preparation has the power to change the tone of the day. Particularly if you pause a moment in gratitude for the soil in which the seeds were grown, the sun and rain that nurtured the seedlings, and the farmers who planted them.

When was the last time you sat down at the dinner table for a meal with family or friends?

It sounds simple but for many, this daily act of connection has been lost or diluted by the distractions of modern-day life.

Assigning time to be present in the moment, without a mobile phone within arm’s reach, or television or radio shows in the background, is rare.

Despite my best intentions, I’m often guilty of consuming a meal in front of the TV or while running errands. I know I’m not alone.

As someone who grew up on a dairy farm and built a career writing about food and beverages, I think about breaking bread a lot.

We can’t ignore what’s going in the world around us but sharing food with our community and loved ones can be an important way to process life’s challenges and acknowledge the people across the globe who are not so fortunate and often go without.

This month is a particularly important time on the local culinary and conversation calendar. The national Tasting Australia festival attracts the world’s best chefs who converge on the Victoria Square-based food hub, just a stone’s throw away from St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.

As events and masterclasses unfold, the sound of church bells will mingle with the clinking of cutlery and animated conversation that occurs when a community unites.

One of the highlights of this year’s program is the Tasting the World in Charles Sturt Cooking Workshops. The workshops will be led by migrants who share Italian, Vietnamese, South Indian and Ugandan recipes from their homelands.

I will be there to host a Q&A with members of the Adelaide Tamil Association as they prepare South Indian appam (a 2000-year-old Tamil dish) with a side of storytelling.

Sharing a meal fosters cross-cultural understanding; as we sit, eat, listen and learn about another person’s heritage, our connection grows deeper. A shared meal doesn’t have to be fancy. Just ask Anna Kalc, who prepared traditional Slovenian pancakes as she shared the tale of her escape from her homeland and the community she found here in Adelaide.

On the first Sunday of the month, Anna and members of the Slovenian Club prepare and share lunch together after Mass at the Slovenian Catholic Centre in West Hindmarsh.

It is evident Anna is proud of her homeland’s culture and is delighted her daughters can now also share Slovenian traditions with the church community.

During the month it was lovely to receive feedback from one of our readers who enjoyed learning how food is bringing school communities together in Adelaide.

In a handwritten letter, Vicki Murphy expressed her joy at reading the story in our April issue about the kitchen garden program at St Catherine’s School in Stirling. There, students take part in hands-on kitchen and gardening classes, created by much-loved Australian cook and food writer Stephanie Alexander.

Vicki reminisced about shared family meals and conversation, reminding us that the ‘family who prays together, stays together’.

Vicki is right. Just remember, the humblest experiences are often the most profound. All you need is a table, a couple of chairs, and an open heart. That, and a little bit of time.

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