11/24/2010 01:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Happens When Mouths Meet


I can always tell the extent to which I am into a date, based on my desire to share appetizers. I don't think it's even conscious. We are either drawn to someone and want to experience arugula together or not.

Sharing food is the most intimate act you can perform with your clothes on. It's authentic and primal. No great relationship can ever begin until you've taken food from the same dish.

Our very existence has depended on communal food. The mother shares her milk with her baby, the hunter shares his buffalo, the gatherer her gooseberries. In the past we lived and died by food dependency and communal consumption -- eat the rancid bison and we all perish. We subconsciously know the power of food.

These days, though, even when we do sit together, we eat alone. We live a single-sized-serving-microwaveable-entree existence, in a culture of BYO-brown-bag lunches. We are creatures programmed to share, living in a have-it-your-way world.

The intimacy of Thanksgiving comes not just from the rarity of gathering at one table -- napkins on lap, iPhones on vibrate, it comes from the fact that everyone at your table is eating the same food from that same ovenproof dish. The Brussels Sprouts that land on your plate -- whether you want them or not- are the genetic clones of the Brussels Sprouts being eaten by your table-mate. The same DNA, the same nutrients, the same energy that is entering your cells, is entering the cells of all who consume it. That's pretty intimate. Eating identical organic matter creates an enduring cellular connection between people that lasts well after the food's been digested. It's the difference between everyone bringing their own turkey to Thanksgiving and carving from the communal bird.

It's why Potlucks endure, why an apron is sexy, why two people serving themselves out of the same waxy white box of Chinese take-out counts as togetherness, and why when we split the tuna tartar, I know our future is possible.

And it's why, for one day, every year, we suppress our dietary independence, lay down our menus, and share atoms with the people we love.

What did you share this Thanksgiving?

Michelle Madden writes the food blog, The Sweet Beet. Sign up on the homepage, to win 6 months of artisanal food!

Photo Copyright 2010 The Sweet Beet

Sign up for our email.
Find out how much you really know about the state of the nation.