A few weeks ago, while digging for some ice cream at Lakeside, I noticed a group of girls at a nearby table. Though they looked close to finishing their plates, I decided to join their conversation. They kindly switched from Spanish to English to accommodate my presence. An hour and a half later, we noticed we’d chatted past Lakeside's closing time. As we left, I thought of my Italian family back home, who similarly made meals last for hours.

The concept of family and friends gathering, savoring a glass of wine, feasting upon an authentic meal, conversing without rush or obligation has a name in the Spanish language — “sobremesa.” My Latin American friends explained that there is no direct translation of the word in the English language, and many families in an on-the-go U.S. culture under-appreciate its value.

Elon University students, hounded by busy schedules, often barely squeeze in enough time in their busy schedules to scarf down food, or even neglect meals altogether. But sharing events of the day, discussing the recent Republican debate and laughing at stories offers a dose of education the classroom cannot always provide. Though the psychological explanation of the male brain spells out a lot, sometimes gossiping about boys with girlfriends helps makes more sense of their stupidity than a technical definition.

Why rush? Unwind, make sense of life through others’ daily encounters. What seems miniscule — a joke, an opinion, a story — might leave a lasting impact on a friend or family member. I might learn to appreciate an alternative perspective, or, after a hearty laugh, remind myself I always have my friends to pull me up after a bad day.

Leave the Easy Mac behind in the dorm room and make memories. Whoever said “eat to live, not live to eat” must never have tasted my dad’s traditional Italian cooking. My favorite family memories consist of sharing a meal and always leaving the table with a better understanding of life than I had before I sat down to eat. Food brings us together as we are able to share in the comfort of a hot meal. You can most definitely eat to live. The quote found on the wall of many Chick-Fil-A restaurants says it all: “If we have to eat to live, we might as well make it good.”

My Latin American friends and I plan to cook a homemade meal (strawberry and kiwi salad, a sandwich spilling with brie and jam between fresh bread and a dessert to be determined … Jealous?) this coming weekend and decided to meet at the farmers’ market to gather our ingredients.

Quality food deserves time and attention —  not a careless effort like punching a few buttons to turn on the microwave. To prepare a feast, the cooking may involve all hands on deck and offer another opportunity to enjoy company, work cooperatively and prepare a creative masterpiece.

Though we can’t make time for three meals a day to last three hours each, fitting in a little sobremesa into our schedules will enhance relationships and help us de-stress from the daily haul. I encourage Elon students to not just consume their meal, but engage in their meal while at school. And hey, you never know what a little sobremesa could do to make a predictable Thanksgiving family get together at Aunt Bridget’s house a bit more interesting.


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