What is the typical protocol for new meetings and special occasions? You eat, right? Breaking bread together signifies more than sharing a meal – it is an opportunity to share stories, inspire through experience, collaborate and nourish one’s mind, body and soul. Author and blogger Bri McKoy gets that. Bri contributes regularly at OurSavoryLife.com, a food blog with recipes and stories from around her table, the award-winning Compassion blog and GraceTable.org, a community blog about food and faith.
Bri’s new book Come and Eat A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table invites readers to discover how a common dining-room table can be transformed into a place where brokenness falls away to reveal authentic peace and fellowship. Come and Eat provides everything – recipes, tips, and conversation starters. The hustle and bustle of each day brings forth a lot of stress that tends to bog down our souls with unattainable perfection and goals. Bri is here to remind us that food and your dining space means so much more.
What is your go-to meal that you make for new friends/guest that you invite to your table?
It just takes one. One tried and true recipe for new guests. A recipe you know like the back of your hand. A recipe that is hard to mess-up. This one little dinner hack has made inviting new people into our home much less stressful – I already know what I am going to cook and I already know it will be delicious! That meal for me is my weeknight Bolognese sauce with sweet potato noodles. It is a meat marinara sauce that tastes like it has been cooking all day even though it comes together in 30 minutes. It makes the house smell amazing and it can simmer on low as the guests arrive until it is ready to be dished out. I like to serve it with sweet potato noodles to make the whole meal grain free in case anyone has allergies to gluten but spaghetti noodles are perfect as well.
Can you provide a few tips to help people cultivate a more intentional table?
When Jeremy and I started showing up to our table for mealtime consistently, there was no end to the quiet and awkward evenings. We were so tired after work and we did not really know how to start up lively and engaging conversation. So, we got creative, we have Table Topics on our table for those evenings when we fill emptied of any questions to ask. We also purchased a food pairing text book and would read a little bit from it every night and take the quizzes together. It was fun to learn something together. What we learned is that if the traditional meal at a table is not working for us – we need to change it. We own our time at the table, not the other way around.
Look at your table like it is a blank slate. What could you do at mealtime that will bring deeper community to the people around the table? Maybe you schedule a backyard picnic once a week to switch things up. Maybe you bring a game. Maybe you serve your food on paper plates so there is less time spent in the kitchen. Identify what stresses you about coming to the table and find a way to change or eliminate it. The table was always meant for people – not the other way around. Be the creative director of the time at your table, it will change everything.
In your book, you dive into the different viewpoints the world has on the word hospitality. Why is hospitality a precious and authentic term we should embrace? What it really means to provide hospitality in the eyes of the Lord?
Hospitality translated from the Greek means, “love of strangers.” Throughout the Bible there is strong enticement for believers to show hospitality. It all seems to culminate in these words from Jesus,
“Then he (Jesus) turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.” –Luke 14:12-14, The Message
God’s answer to a broken world is His Son being shared through His Church. I will be the first to admit how scary it is to bring people I do not know together over a meal. Where do I start? What if it is weird or quiet? But I have learned that if hospitality is at least not a little bit messy, then maybe we are doing it wrong? If our meals always go off without a hitch and the people around our tables are shiny and squeaky clean, then maybe we’re missing the point? We can take heart and love the stranger because we have God’s love in us. We can open our eyes to all the people God has around us and ask Him to show us who we can invite to come and eat. We are partners with Him. He is so willing to help us. This is the beginning of loving a stranger. When we boast in God and His ways, the unfamiliarly with others does not repel us, it compels us.
Your book touches on the hardships that we should bring to the table. Can you elaborate on this and perhaps give people insight on why it’s important to bring the good and controversial to the table?
My generation, we’ve grown up in a land of high fences and closed doors. We don’t need to walk over to our neighbor’s home to borrow sugar, we can just have Amazon bring it to us. We’ve learned to be for ourselves and to rely only on our ourselves. I believe this banner of individualism has also translated to the conversation and the people we bring to our table. For a long time, I was only bringing people to my table who think like me and look like me. We kept conversation light and halfhearted. But as I began to take more of my cue from how Jesus did ministry around a table, I noticed that he ate with the of chief sinners and the fully broken. In fact, the people He ate with disgusted the religious leaders.
Jesus showed me that if I really wanted to extend His love to a hurting people right from my table, I needed to bring the hurting people to my table. If I wanted to experience His true healing and life around a meal, we need to talk about the hard things of life, not just the easy things. If, as believers, we’re afraid to bring certain people to our table because we think we will be looked down on, or ridiculed by other people of faith we need to remember why Jesus came. He came for the sick. This is why my husband and I are now very intentional in conversation at the table and why we choose not just to bring the healthy to our table but the hurting too.
For those not familiar with Bri, know that she is at her core a realist. She’s burned food when company was on their way and cried because she felt like her house wasn’t beautiful enough. “If you long to have people inside your home but you don’t like cooking or you don’t know how to cook, Come & Eat was written for you,” said Bri. “My book is not just for people who love food. My book is for people who love people. It is a book for people who want to more consistently love people well in a way that can be integrated into their everyday life. I am so passionate about the everyday person opening up their doors and inviting people to come and eat that in my book I include 21 recipes as well as questions and prayers for the table.”