Several years ago, University of Houston research professor and New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown wrote out what she called an "ingredients for Joy and Meaning list," which allowed her to catalog the things that she was doing — or had done — at times when everything felt good in her life.
One of those ingredients was cooking. Brown said it felt like cooking together was one of the indicators that her family was doing well.
Brown says preparing and sharing meals are crucial components of connection (or reconnection) with others. She also seems to think that the dinner table might be the most important piece of furniture in your home.
If you're not immediately familiar with Brown's name, you still might've been one of the 40 million people who have watched her TED Talk, and there's a better-than-average chance that your friends have recommended one of her books. (I've lost track of the number of times people have told me to read Daring Greatly).
Brown recently sat down with The Washington Post's Mary Beth Albright for a "Food Diaries of the Famous" segment. The two of them talked about reconnecting, about authenticity, and about how you're not meant to be perfect when you're sharing — or cooking — a meal. Here are two of our favorite parts of that interview.
A wild Saturday night . . . roasted not 1 but 2 spaghetti squash! Finished my first @whole30 in January. Did it with 8 people in our office and we took turns cooking - you've never seen so much Tupperware! It changed my life in many ways. One big one - prepare! I'm worth the time and I forgot how much I love to cook. My family loves the recipes! Easy with a GF daughter. I'm packing up meals for a hardcore writing week next week. I'm prepping my two favorite meals right now: Egg Roll in a Bowl by @40aprons and Buffalo Chicken Casserole by @paleomg . @nomnompaleo is another one I can't live without. And the broccoli soup by @stupideasypaleo - lifesaver! Thanks for daring greatly @melissa_hartwig
1. Brown thinks that cooking is an essential part of being human.
"There is no perfectionism in cooking. It's an active creativity and we are neurobiologically hard-wired as human beings for creativity. And cooking, for me, is one of the most joyful acts, and when [my family] isn't cooking, something's up.
2. Brown calls the kitchen table "the soul of [her] family."
"It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It is the awkward silence, it's tears. I mean every conversation. We got a new kitchen table because we moved and the other one didn't fit and [my husband] Steve was like 'What are we gonna do with it?' and I was like 'I'm taking it to my office,' so it's at work now. Because [...] just the layers and layers of memory. It's an old painted table, and you can see math homework indentations and I can remember the conversations just sitting down with my kids saying a grandparent had died, or just laughing until we were blowing Diet Coke out of our noses.
"It is, no matter who we are or what we believe, it is the communion, you know? It is the communion in the spiritual sense, it is the communion in the sense of family. It's supper. Where I grew up, it's supper."