Last week, I took Frugal Feasts on the road and co-hosted a hybrid Frugal Feast-Shabbat dinner with a dear friend in Washington, D.C. Now I have to be honest: food is more my religion than religion is my religion, but the marriage of the two was so seamless, with so many common and resonant themes, that it’s worth some reflection.
To date, all our Frugal Feasts have been held on Fridays, the evening that marks the beginning of Shabbat, or the Sabbath, in Judaism. Above all else, Shabbat emphasizes the holiness of time versus space. There is nowhere in particular you have to be to experience this day. There is no special occasion to wait for. Each and every week, wherever you are, there are 24 hours set aside for you during which you are reminded to slow down and dedicate yourself to rest, appreciation, and community, giving thanks for what is already created, instead of what remains on your list of things to create.
For me and many of my friends, it is the Friday night Shabbat dinner that serves as a keystone in this practice; a night to gather, eat, drink, and reconnect with each other at the end of a week.
In everyday life, I’ve noticed that when I eat alone, I tend to eat quickly and enjoy my food less. It’s still likely to be a tasty, well-balanced and low-on-the-food-chain meal, but the eating process itself is somehow diminished.
But like magic, the act of eating in a group makes us slow down and enjoy our meals—the food, the conversation, the company. It turns out that when we set aside the time to cook a meal and do something as simple as sit down to eat it together, we elevate an otherwise ordinary moment to something special. The food tastes better, the wine tastes better, and there is so much more to appreciate about the time we share.
And when we strive to eat mindfully, with attention to where our food is coming from, how it was grown, and who worked to create it—a practice that is central to Frugal Feasts—we endow our meal with that much more meaning.
We also invest in our community. In our Feasting to date, we’ve noticed that ten seems to be the magic number—the “sweet spot” in terms of the number of guests you need in order to raise enough of a kitty (at $5 dollar a head) to create a great meal (while also maintaining manageable levels of stress as the host). It struck me that in Judaism, a quorum of ten—what’s known as a “minyan”—is the minimum number of people needed for many prayers. In other words, the element of community is part and parcel of the religious practice, just as it has always been an integral part of Frugal Feasts.
Our Shabbat Frugal Feast featured a menu of:
- Crunchy kale chips, baked with a macadamia nut, cherry tomato, shallot and fresh rosemary topping
- Fresh peasant bread baked in a Dutch oven (a truly life-changing experience), with roasted garlic and shallot spread
- Coconut milk, chickpea and spinach stew with sundried tomatoes, ginger and lemon, served over roasted sweet potatoes and garnished with fresh cilantro
Full bellies, new friends, and lots of smiles. For $5 a person, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion. Like Shabbat, each week offers the occasion to come together around a home-cooked Frugal Feast, invest in mindful eating, and the community good food can foster.