I have just been reading about Joyce Maynard’s pie parties. Her very personal story about her relationship with her mother, and how she lived through several difficult life transitions by baking has unearthed a treasured passion I have concealed. Despite my denials, I love to cook or bake or more specifically break bread in the communion of family and friends. Joyce does not mention that she is a therapist or that she uses her pie parties to help others heal, rather I see this as an emerging and resonate theme. She came to throw these parties in remembrance of her mother. She describes a natural progression of deep sharing that occurs after making the pies to enjoying the pies with friends in a party format. She notes that to truly learn to bake a good pie you must stand “at the elbow of someone who knows.”
It is the sharing and faith aspects of her story that draw me out of my self and into her story. My interest in community, family, healing, and the power of breaking bread together seems so eloquently crystallized in her story. Maybe it is the “party” aspect that is so important. Nevertheless, I am motivated to ask my grandmother to allow me to be at her elbow while she makes her sweet potatoe pies that I love and everyone in my family treasures. I am not so much interested in just how to make them, because recipes do not differ much. It’s the little nuanced touch of baking with care that makes them so wonderful and the history of how her pies have always brought the family together.
My passion for shared meals also comes from the many mornings I spent with my father watching his “strawberry disasters,” quiche experiments, and attempts to perfect fried green tomatoes. He played with biscuit dough, used the left over dough for cinnamon rolls; and he is most loved for his individualized attention when creating our huge waffle breakfasts. When my father’s dad was still with us, we would convince him to come spend time with us with the promise of a big waffle breakfast, in particular a cracker like waffle just for him. Meals, as we refer to them, were and are very important and special in my house. Friends would drop whatever they were doing to come over if they heard my dad was grilling. At these “meals,” we ate together, prayed together, talked and laughed together. With more than five of us all crammed around one small table in the kitchen - family, friends, and cats included. Although we now may gather in a different kitchen and perhaps it is my brother behind the waffle iron; it is the same communion. We still laugh, pray, talk, and eat together.
I would not say that big things got talked about over the dinner table, instead a kind of touching base happened in a ritual of comfort. More might be revealed in the opening prayer than any other time. As we prayed together, first thanking God for what we were to receive, thanking for the hands that created the meal, and then asking for that which we needed- safe travel, peace, and blessings for the world.
One of the things I have noticed, when you look at strong families or communities, is their comminttment to coming together. Why not come together for a meal? Be it a meal, music, art, family, faith - we needed to come together. In the coming together, deeper things can be addressed, celebrated and resolved.