A Divine Meal, Rooted in Understanding

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            While traveling abroad is an exhilarating experience for many, being thrust suddenly into new cultures and circumstances can also bring about uncomfortable moments. Prior to my travels in Spain, I knew a healthy amount of Spanish, but quickly discovered it was not quite sufficient while residing in Spain. Although staying with a Spanish family exacerbated these difficulties, they were eventually overcome through the divine moment of sharing a meal.

            While different cultures have varying styles and methods of cooking, food is an element that unites all of humanity. We all require it in order to survive and thrive. Being a typical male in my early twenties, eating is something that comes as naturally as breathing. While eating food alone is certainly enjoyable, partaking in it together elevates the experience to that of a religious ceremony. Being unable to adequately communicate with my generous Spanish hosts I was eager to find common ground that would help establish a relationship unobtainable through speech. On my first evening in their home, I was treated to a meal that left me as happy and satisfied as a bear in the middle of an Alaskan River during the peak of a salmon run. A home cooked egg scramble, filled with olives and spices that aroused my taste buds in a way previously unmatched in my travels in Spain, that nourished not only my body, but also my sense of connection with my hosts. Their delight at my pleasure in the meal left us both at a place mutual understanding and allowed us to enjoy each other’s company.

            Being understood through language is a comfort but not a necessity. Just as religion serves to unite believers around the globe, food also joins people together in ways in which language cannot quite grasp. While all barriers may not be transcended, the wonderful experience of a shared meal is not only pleasurable but vital in traveling abroad, crossing barriers by unveiling new and important means of understanding.

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