By midday, as my family and I sat on the terrace, small plates of many things appeared on the tables all around. There were cold and hot foods, blended and whole, a spectrum of colors from every part of the landscape. There was sheep cheese, grilled or plain, tabbouleh heavy in mint, walnuts puréed with red peppers, dandelions sautéed with onions, and, for dipping, a bowl of olive oil with crushed thyme and sesame.
It was all there. Grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. There was meat, too. But, as in pho, it didn’t dominate. It hid in the heart of a fried kibbe: ground, spiced lamb cocooned in bulgur.
It was a meal meant to be eaten with others, to be passed around and discussed. A meal designed to slow me down, even if just for an afternoon.
I tell you about this meal because it embodies the final and most basic principle of eating well, both for our health and the health of the planet: eating together.
Sharing a meal can be a good way to avoid waste and overconsumption. There’s usually someone in the group who will pop the last piece of cheese into her mouth (my kid), or scrape the last bits of kibbe from the plate (me).
Not least, eating together makes eating more pleasurable.
Brazil is nudging its people in that direction. Its national dietary guidelines offer not just tips on what to eat, but also how to eat.
“Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company,” they suggest. “Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life.”