A question we are frequently asked is “How did you come up with this idea?” (The idea being: Take a 90-year-old greenhouse in a working class neighborhood in Dubuque, Iowa and transform it into a place where people can learn how to grow and prepare food.)
Mike and I each have different answers to this. And as hard as it is for me (ha!), I won’t speak for him in this post– he can share his answer a different day.
But my answer is that I want to create an environment that honors the idea of slowing down and enjoying food – but more importantly enjoying the connection and fulfillment that comes from gathering around the dinner table.
There is something extraordinarily important about this connection — something that speaks to our souls and fills a deep emotional need in many of us. Given the divisive nature of the recent election, I believe more strongly than ever in this vision.
The feeling of connection over a meal means something different for everyone, but I think it always starts with simply slowing down. Everything is moving so quickly and we are just so darn busy all the time, that prioritizing meals and conversation during meals has really taken a back burner in many families – including my own. In fact, I think one of the reasons I am so passionate about this is because I deeply need it myself.
A friend of mine gave me a little book called How to Eat. It is written by Thich Nhat Hahn, a Zen Buddhist and mindfulness teacher. It is filled with little meditations about eating. Here is one of my favorites:
While we eat, we can try to pay attention to just two things: the food that we are eating and our friends who are sitting around us and eating with us. This is called mindfulness of food and mindfulness of community. Eating mindfully, we become aware of all the work and energy that has gone into bringing the food to us. If we are eating with others, we can notice how wonderful it is that during this sometimes hectic life we can find the time to sit together in a relaxed way like this to enjoy a meal. When you can breathe, sit and eat together with your family or friends in mindfulness, this is called true community-building.
When we say we Convivium’s mission is to create community around food, this is exactly what we are talking about. Our vision not only includes the dinner table, but also the training kitchen during cooking classes or our Learning Center during a class on how to build a compost bin or in the Coffee House where one might have an interesting conversation with a fellow customer. No matter what area of Convivium we are considering, we want to create a place where everyone just slows down a bit and comes together to enjoy each other and the Earth’s bounty.
Please, join us. All are welcome.