We have an expression in Arabic that literally translates to, “We have eaten bread and salt together.” It is used to express the idea that our relationship has taken a new level because we have shared a meal. Having a daily meal with family, lunch with work colleagues, or drinks with close friends is always special. Sharing a meal with someone in need also feels great and has a deep impact on both parties.
Even children enjoy a shared meal. Giggles and Cuddles love dinner, because during the week it’s the only meal that the four of us have together. When Daddy is late at work and doesn’t join us for dinner they get upset. It’s the time of day when we all get together and they have a chance to talk to us both about things that happened during the day, whether good or bad, excitedly share something new they learned, sing one of their favourite songs, or just laugh together. I also find that they eat better and are willing to try different things.
It even starts with preparing the meal. Involving children in meal preparation is great! Giggles and Cuddles love to help me cook. They enjoy baking cakes and cookies and kneading pizza dough. It is an excellent way to get them to eat and try different things, as they’re involved in the preparation.
When you think about it, all special occasions and festivities in every culture and religion are always celebrated with food and drink. One longs for and indulges in special dishes used to celebrate each occasion, but it is not simply about the food. The stories that are told, new connections that are formed, and the laughter that is shared are what make those occasions really memorable. Children also enjoy spending time with (and being spoilt by) family and bonding with friends or making new ones.
It is during special festivities that one also thinks about people who are less fortunate and who may not be able to have that “special meal” to celebrate the occasion. Living and growing up in a country where a big percentage of the population lives in poverty, we never had difficulty finding people to help. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that the needy will always be grateful for money to buy a meal, but that gratitude is multiplied when one actually offers a home-cooked dish. The time and effort spent to prepare something, even if basic, has a lasting effect, not just on the receiver but also on the giver.
This is something that I would like Giggles and Cuddles to learn. Living in Switzerland where there are hardly any poor, I’ve also learned that needy people are not just those with limited financial means. A lot of people are in need of emotional support. Consider an elderly couple whose children live far away, or a single mom who works long hours to support her children: a short visit, bringing home-baked cookies or cake that the children helped prepare, will surely form a special bond and help brighten someone’s day.
So as we head into the festive season may you be surrounded be your loved ones, enjoying your special Giggles and Cuddles, eating, drinking and being merry. Do think of others, make a small gesture, and try to involve your little ones. I’m sure everyone will be even merrier.
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura has studied Journalism and Advertising, and has been working as a journalist and an illustrator. She has been illustrating for magazines, websites, charity and diverse campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and seven-year-old daughter.