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Breaking Bread Together

by Linda Maria Steele

"Just by eating together it makes you feel psychologically closer." ~ David Givens

I recently watched "Under the Tuscan Sun" the 2003 film starring Diane Lane for a second time in preparation for my own upcoming Italian adventure. In the film the main character, Frances, impulsively buys a Tuscan Villa on a whim.

One of my favorite scenes is when she invites everyone she's met in town over for dinner - the future life she imagines for herself includes having lots of people to cook for and break bread with.

I love the simple truth in the idea that we are the most happy when we are sitting down to eat with others - both new and old friends. I've decided to take a cooking class when I'm in Rome. Participants meet at a market near the famous Spanish Steps to choose items for a dish to prepare, head back to the Chef's kitchen to cook, then sit down to eat what we've prepared and drink wine together at the end of the day. Sounds like a perfect way to get to know the locals.

There's something deeply profound yet wonderfully simple about making a meal, setting a table and then sitting down to eat together. When there is a pause in the usual rush of ordinary life and we share a good meal with friends, family and even people in our wider community we are not only offering nourishment to our bodies but to our souls as well.

It doesn't matter if we are sharing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for two or even twenty, or participating in a grand community wide meal for 200 – coming together around food can make us feel that all shall be well.

The simple act of breaking bread with others has rewards that can ripple far beyond the single shared meal. Food provides sustenance for our physical bodies yet it also provides comfort. Gathering around a shared meal creates a sense of community and connection.

Potlucks, Community Meals and Progressive Dinners are just a few ways to break bread together.


The idea of a communal meal or pot-luck originally appears in 16th century England, in the work of Thomas Nashe, and used to mean "food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest, the luck of the pot".

The idea of a communal meal where guests bring their own food seems to have originated in the late 19th Century, or early 20th Century, particularly in the Western United States. Today, potlucks are often organized by church or other community events because they simplify the preparation and lessen the cost for any one person. Potlucks in the United States often include a wide range of prepared foods from crock-pot dishes, casseroles, salads, bread, dessert bars, cookies and cakes and even Jello salads.

Many people who attend a pot-luck often have a favorite dish they like to share and look forward to sampling many of the different options available.

Potlucks have also become an easier way to entertain. The prospect of inviting friends over for dinner where I ask everyone to bring a dish to share seems a lot more appealing than putting all the pressure on myself to perform.

A potluck offers a renewed image of a dinner party where the hostess has been slaving away all day. With a potluck there is more ease and joy for all. I asked a few friends to share what their favorite dish to bring to a potluck is. One of the things I love most about asking people what they like to bring is the answers often include why they bring that particular dish.

It's fun to hear about someone's love for making and sharing a cherished recipe. Perhaps it was their grandmother's favorite and they've been making it in their family for years or that whenever they make it everyone loves it so much that it gets eaten quickly and how much joy that brings them.

Daryl Smith likes to make and share a Buffalo Chicken Dip for a Potluck. Lynda Buckley says "I make an Arugula Salad that I love and it's so easy." She suggests using Google to search for Trader Joe's Arugula Salad. She says that you can either assemble it before hand or when you get there.

Gail Latimer adds that she loves making her Corn and Black Bean Salsa. And I'm sure the other guests love it too.

Community Meals

On the Upper Cape there are two Community Meals that come to mind. The fellowship offered at both events is not only heart-warming but inspirational too. People come together, eat a good meal and have an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way. The first is the newly popular Falmouth Eats Together and the second is the annual La Tavola Feast in Mashpee held in August each year. Sam Slarskey of Falmouth initiated the first Falmouth Eats together – a community wide event that is now hosted in conjunction with the Falmouth Service Center. "Our vision is that community members of all backgrounds and economic circumstances will sit together as a community rooted in compassion to enjoy the breaking of bread."

Falmouth Eats Together is an ongoing community wide event hosted one Thursday a month from 4-6 p.m.

La Tavola is an Italian style feast under the stars that welcomes close to 300 people to share a meal around a long table together in Mashpee. The evening offers food, wine and song. When friends visited me from Texas, a few years ago, I took them to La Tavola and they still talk about how much fun they had.

There's something about breaking bread with others and taking the time to relax and enjoy fellowship that feels deeply rewarding almost therapeutic.

Progressive Dinners

Another fun way to break bread with your friends is to host a Progressive Dinner party. In a progressive dinner party you gather a number of friends to co-host with you.

You pick a night and meet to have an appetizer at one house, the main entrée at another and then move to a third friend's house for desert. It's a fun option and keeps the topics of conversation fresh while no one hostess has to do all the work.

You progress through the course of an evening from one house to the next to share an entire meal together. The easiest way to host a successful progressive dinner party is if all guests involved are neighbors or at least live in close proximity to one another so that you can simply walk from one house to the next.

The more we seek opportunities to share a meal and gather to break bread with our family, circle of friends and our wider community, we can deepen our connection to those we care about. Here's one of my favorite summer recipes to make and share with friends. I make it in late summer when the zucchini, tomatoes and summer squash are in abundance. It's one of those easy to prepare dishes that everyone loves.

Summer Garden Vegetable Tart

  1. Simply take a refrigerated pie crust and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake pie crust until lightly brown for about fifteen minutes. Let cool.
  2. Take one small container of herbed boursin cheese and spread on the bottom of the prepared pie crust.
  3. Slice thin into circles fresh summer squash, zucchini, and tomatoes. Layer one at a time each of the vegetables in a circular pattern on top of the cheese.
Linda Steele

Linda Steele is an Adjunct Professor at MA Maritime Academy, where she teaches courses in the Humanities Department.

She is a long time free-lance writer and author of Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen. She has a passion for cooking and baking and loves creating new recipes while sharing them with her friends and family.

You can follow Linda's blog at: