Fruit is good. Boring, but good. I just read a blurb that suggested putting a huge bowl of fruit on the table for dessert, more than you think anyone would eat, and I was whisked back to a much-loved ritual from my childhood. As a large Italian family, we’d often get together for the official Sunday dinner. It’s true, they’d last for hours, with the adults sitting around and talking, and the children playing between courses.
But in that lovely space between dinner and dessert, while everyone was taking a break, except the women cleaning up the kitchen, an enormous bowl of seasonal fruit would appear, with a bowl of nuts in the shell, and perhaps a few dried figs or dates. And then the ritual began. The man of the household would start cracking nuts, often recruiting my brother or one of my male cousins was recruited to help (let’s not talk about the sexism here, OK?). The presiding male would then stuff the figs and dates with the nuts, and hand them around to everyone at the table, one by one, along with a warm comment.
The conversation at these points was very gentle, generally full of reminiscences and laughter. While we were waiting our turn, we’d munch on a few grapes, or share a tangerine or an apple – not too much because we knew DESSERT was coming. The espresso would eventually appear, signaling that a procession of pastries and cookies was about to come, and with it, the noise level would increase again. Many of these people have passed, and with their loss, we’re losing – or maybe even have already lost – the continuity.
Those precious few minutes, hearing the family stories, the warmth of the conversation, the closeness, meant more to me than eating fruit. On the one hand, it was just plain fruit. But on the other, it was true food for the spirit, incorporating the best part of what it means to be a family. In these days, when we’re aching for connectedness, and hungry for more than nutrition from our meals, maybe we need more ritual.