My partner Bill has two pet peeves. First, he hates when a restaurant server comes to remove his plate and asks, “Are you still working on that?” With as much gentility as he can muster, Bill generally will answer, “No, I am finished enjoying it. Thank you.”
It almost always goes right over the server’s head. I suppose that may be, at least in part, because they are working. Waiting tables is a job, and it is a difficult, often poor-paying one. Servers always are working on being cheerful, personable, efficient, attentive, and polite, and most of them succeed with remarkable consistency.
Ultimately, it is not the server that triggers Bill’s irritation so much as it is the American attitude that we are “working on” our meals, our food, our drink. In this country, we expend extraordinary amounts of money on food that we wolf down on our way to something else. In other cultures it would be impolite and inconceivable to rush a meal.
The sacred table at the center of the Christian faith is more and more remote in a culture in which food is consumed in cars, or standing up, or otherwise in a hurry. It is work done just to keep hunger at bay, or MAYBE to nourish our bodies.
Jesus said, “As often as you eat bread or drink wine remember me.” We apply that to the Eucharist/communion, but I’m not so sure that was what he meant. What if Jesus was trying to get us to consider every time we are at table with family or friends a sacred moment at which he is present? Far from work, it is an invitation to savor each bite and every sip as if it is a gift from God.
The truth is, even if you are vegan or vegetarian, something that once was alive has died so that you might now live. The least we can do is value that life as a holy gift, not just a dish we work on. If we could learn to do that at table then who knows what other areas of our lives might begin to take on a wholly holy quality.
Rev. Michael Piazza