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Titterton: Food and Community

My husband and I are building our second outdoor pizza oven. Our first one collapsed due to our terrible engineering skills, but this one will be solid. Plus, our friends got used to eating brick oven pizza in our backyard, and now they won’t let us forget it.

I love cooking for others as a way to thank and to show care. But more than that, I don’t think you can really have a community without sharing food.

When we feed or are fed by others, we relax and reveal ourselves. Breaking bread is an act of peace and vulnerability, and of putting in the effort for a better future. Communal eating is like doing work we need to do while not even realizing we’re doing it.

It makes total sense to me now why Vermont’s potluck game is so strong, and why so many Town Meetings end with one.

And there’s a reason communal feeding has a subversive flavor to it - why J. Edgar Hoover was so threatened by the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program for children, why Bread and Puppet has always offered homemade bread with their provocative performances.

Indeed, bonds are built around a table, and organizing happens naturally there. But it’s not so much because of the politics of the person or organization doing the feeding - but because a community that can feed itself is independent.

And it’s the care for the people you feed that comes first.

The day before Thanksgiving last year, I visited a friend. She made me a salad while my toddler slept. She sautéed apples and nuts and made dressing and piled everything over arugula. It was the best salad of my life.

Because on that day, I was sleep deprived and existentially worried about the future. Having someone lovingly prepare fresh, seasonal food and feed me was a show of care I had no idea I needed so much.

It’s easier, now, to see hope beyond current challenges, now that Vermont’s green again and the days are long, and people continue to show up for goodness and justice, and to make art and garden and play, and host picnics and potlucks and barbecues.

Any day now, our friends will show up with a topping or two, and we’ll be making pizza for the neighborhood.

Katie Titterton is a freelance writer and communications consultant in Richmond.
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