by George Key
To feed a starving man one must make certain that the first course is that of dignity. To give dignity to a human being nourishes his soul and feeds his starving spirit. A bond of mutual trust secures mutual respect, to one degree or another. That point of which finds its limitations and boundaries upon the traditional process of breaking bread.
The ultimate litmus test for determining whether an individual cuts the mustard is, has been, and most likely will forever be how one accepts an invitation to partake in the act of breaking bread. In many cultures and sub-cultures around the world, the loving act of feeding each other, offering life-sustaining nourishment carves a deeper meaning than a mere reference to sharing one’s meal. The host is offering a piece of themselves. They are revealing that they are willing to trust the invited to know them a little bit more. They are saying welcome.
It is a great honor to be invited to break bread at special family meals. These family gatherings often occur on holidays or even more intimate affairs that occur on a weekly basis. Generally, family functions in Christian households are held Sunday afternoons following the morning church services. How one responds to an invitation to break bread speaks volumes to their character. When three generations of Sicilian women spend four days preparing softball-size meatballs, one should not insult them by eating less than two along with all that comes with them. The gift of the experience is more than the fabulous cuisine. The real gift is the humble acceptance into their home, circle, and family. It is more than sharing food it is sharing a way of life.
If one does not bear to share a family meal with the potential future in-laws, then perhaps one should consider another mate. This would be no commentary on the food prepared, rather on the indignant way you might be disrespected. No matter if the intention was honorable or not, any bait and switch or contingencies placed on the sharing of a meal disqualify the event from being a true breaking of bread. Despite what has been biblically referenced, some faith-based soup kitchens require their guest to sit through a sermon prior to being fed.
Within the American sub-culture world of bikers, one does not in good grace decline an invitation to break bread. To not disrespect has more weight in most circles than the need to respect someone. When the invitation extends from one biker family to another biker’s family it comes laced with an element of trust and understanding of norms, parameters, and boundaries. Those expectations of no disrespect carry through.
In Tucson, Gordo Diablo’s nana Maria would send her grandson to his security job with a bucket of freshly made vegetable ranch soup to share with the bar staff. This bonus every Saturday was a welcome hangover cure. In El Cajon. Chico’s nana Rosa would cook all night Saturday so he might break the bread of homemade tortillas and the chili Verde at Dumont’s Tavern every Sunday.
When the invited declines an invitation the hosts are likely to experience a gamut of feelings. Those triggered emotions could range greatly depending on those societal norms that shaped the core beliefs of the individual actors. When, if the actors share the same or a similar set of norms, then the process of breaking bread could likely play through without a hitch. A hitch in the git-a-long within even a family unit might be more the rule than the exception. Social conflict has torn families apart. Family members were disowned or broke away as their independent thinking was rejected by the controlling family patriarchs.
Whither or Hither Nether nor Wither
Hither-most ideals, ideas will wither
without considerate conversations.
Protective walls corral insecurities
of any and all unresolved conflict.
Whither are we bound to CLASH!
Mindful corrosive considerations with
this conflictual corruptness infused.
Forced family divisiveness is used
for destruction. Previously constructed
norms of societal corruption form, where
political-economic antagonists exist.
Politics and religion, attitudes forbidden.
Particularities, fear of unknown change
breeds insecurities blissful ignorance
forced adventures develop stark realities.
Advances in communication technologies
Making sublime my Front-line in real-time.
Upon the frontlines during the Civil War, division of these United States of America, we witness the reality that occurs when families are torn apart. Many families straddled the Mason-Dixon Line. Brothers fought brothers. Churches formed Northern and Southern-based senates. Separate but equal hatred assured us that the fear of unknown change would postpone societal evolution. Respectful considerate conversations between different thinking individuals would have to wait. Segregated breaking of bread diminished the possibilities of setting the table with any integrated conversation.
To divide and conquer, a proven military tactic was now implemented to suppress and control those that questioned self-appointed totalitarian authorities.
Conservative Clash, Social Class
Bully, bully, my little Teddy Bear.
Isolationists twisted to make a fist.
Miss’s racially torn dresses.
Justified genocide cultural elimination.
Forced assimilation, wealth appropriation,
greed monger stealth no national health.
Economic social stratification station.
Nation without a cordial trusted position
on inflation. Motivation stagnation.
Sovereign nations on overgrazed reservations.
The mothers of the others we smother.
Hornswoggled scapegoats for the bad oats.
Feed the knight-mounted stallions of the day.
the prairie, plant for cash, forgo the hay.
Eat dry bowls of dust if we must.
Financial market dank run on the bank
Colored by civil rights rarities.
Dishonest leadership and social divisiveness tore apart our family's formal dining tradition with the technological advances in satellite communications. Real-time images gave us daily reporting of uncensored news from the far east. The advent of the television tray pulled our breaking of bread tradition farther apart. No longer were we served from the patriarchate platter. We defaulted to the stove, scooping upon our paper plates tuna casserole. Retiring to our individual corners of the non-living room, eyes affixed on Walter Cronkite, awaiting the daily tally. The body count from Vietnam determined who had won the war that day. The count could be spun by diplomatic need; however, the truth of the atrocities was before our eyes. While enjoying my tuna casserole, I watched as a Buddhist monk, on the streets of Saigon, poured gasoline over himself. Sitting in what appeared a position of meditative prayer, he lit himself on fire. He was protesting the war and the greed of the American want for the oil reserves offered by the South China Sea. His flaming body sat quite erect for a long minute. A defining silence came over the room. Though all of us were disgusted at the news, we formed individual political positions. Tuna casserole was never enjoyed again. Just the smell of it would flash me back. Breaking bread would morph once again evolving from patriarchal dominance into a more cultural individualism.
Individuals became known for the special dish they shared with others. Granny Todd made the best ever double fudge frosted sour cream chocolate cake. Box lunch socials, community pot-luck gatherings, and church dinners were among the many breaking bread offshoots. Collaborative cookbooks by design put breaking bread in print. Churches and civic groups sponsored the platform allowing individuals to share their, sometimes secret, recipes. Dad would melt a Hershey candy bar into several select tomato-based sauces. Mom added Seven-Up to pie crust dough to create a light flakey apple pie crust. My sister, Tina, made the finest sweet onion sandwiches. She would cut thick slices of Vidalia onion, slather Miracle Whip on Wonder Bread, and dust it with black pepper and salt. She would cut them in half diagonally and share them with me. It was an honor to be included in anything with a sister six years your senior. I recreate those precious moments in my kitchen now. Although all four have passed away, their spirits live on in me if I share their recipes as I continue breaking bread with others.
Upon my mother’s death, we found she had a rather large library of cookbooks. Amongst the three hundred collaborative cookbooks that my mom had collected over the many years, I discovered one published by the United Methodist Church Women’s Auxiliary. My mother submitted a recipe at a committee meeting in hopes that when it was read for a vote of approval that it would receive a belly roll of laughter. Running short of time, the committee voted to approve all submissions. Mom’s recipe for popcorn stuffing was approved without being read. The recipe for this turkey stuffing was shuffled into the pile of submissions. I saw her name on the contributors’ acknowledgments and found her recipe to be on the last page. The recipe was quite normally written as most turkey stuffing. The exception was the last line of her joke intended recipe. It read, “you know your turkey is done when the popcorn blows the ass out of the turkey”.
No matter the dish, whether it was softball size meatballs, tiger meat, chislic, squeaky cheese, onion sandwiches, roast pig, tamales, chili, pie, egg noodles, or homemade ice cream, any of these can be shared, however, the litmus test for whether it constitutes a breaking of bread or not, falls to the elements of trusting love, understanding, and kindness gifted through this unique human experience.
Where Are the Traditions, Norm?
Charitable fundraising, Open houses
Cakewalks, stares, musical chairs,
Weddings, funerals, engagement dinners
If they are hungry give them food.
Righteous integrity, no disrespect.
Work or do not eat, eat or do not sleep,
clean your plate, starving fright, eat every bite.
“ Give us this day our daily bread”, Traditions