An Encouraging Word — Food brings us together

Come, eat of my food and drink of my wine. Proverbs 9:5

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

One of the projects I am most proud of is the new “teaching kitchen” at Saint Meinrad’s Institute for Priests and Presbyterates where I am serving as founding director. With the help of my good friend, Jim, here in Louisville we held the grand opening of our project two years ago. Since then, we have been teaching “simple healthy cooking classes” to young priests attending our ongoing formation programs.

Our “teaching kitchen” is the envy of every cook who gets the chance to see it. It has four ovens, three warming drawers, two cook tops, two dishwashers, a microwave and a washer and dryer for dish towels, aprons and napkins. It has a large refrigerator, a separate freezer, a walk-in pantry and a TV for viewing cooking shows.

Twelve seats surround a u-shaped counter so that students can watch — and work with — a chef. We teach how to use a Seal-A-Meal, a George Foreman Grill and a Crockpot.

My idea came from the realization that so many priests who come to our programs are now living alone (and the number is growing) and many of them do not know how to cook healthy food.

I thought if we were going to train new pastors, many of them living alone for the first time in their lives, we would have to include cooking classes, not only to ensure their good health, but to also give them a way to build relationships with other priests and friends.

Cooking and sharing food is a powerful way to bring families, couples, neighbors and even priests together. Cooking itself builds camaraderie, but eating together builds relationships. For that reason, the kitchen is only one part of a bigger project.

Next to the kitchen is a large living room with a gas fireplace where new pastors can pray together before cooking together. Once the food is cooked, it is served in a twelve chair dining room. Praying together, cooking together and eating together are all part of every class.

It occurred to me that some families might use some of these ideas when the “old-time family dinners every night” is not possible. Why not a family “cooking class” preceded by prayer time and followed by a sit down dinner? Each member, or two, could teach the others something they know or have picked from a cooking magazine, something the others have not experienced before. Once a month? Every quarter? Two times a year?

We eat when we are sad and when we are happy. We are recipients of food when a family member dies. We put together special meals for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. We cannot imagine Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter without tons of good food. The Fourth of July calls for a cook out! The “big game” calls for “tailgating.”

Jesus knew food and drink bring people together. Two of his greatest miracles were the multiplication of wine and the multiplication of bread.

Father J. Ronald Knott

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