Written by Frida Silva.
Graphic by Quynhmai Tran.
During the final meal that Jesus shared with his apostles, they dined on bread and wine. “Do this in remembrance of me,” he said. “The bread is my body and the wine is my blood.” Shortly after the Last Supper, Jesus was crucified. According to Christianity, the crucifixion of Jesus plays a central role in the salvation of humankind. God loved the world so much that He gave the life of His only Son for us. To honor this sacrifice, we eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus during communion. We allow the body of Christ to enter our own for the sake of nourishment. God loved the world so much that He gave the life of His only Son for us and now we consume Him.
Similarly, we eat the food our loved ones have taken the time and care to prepare for us. We cut with a knife, stab with a fork, sink our teeth into the love and thought that was put into something that nourishes or soothes our body. Perhaps it is not on a biblical scale, but it is another way to honor the love of those dear to us. The food is a physical representation of their care and to eat is our way of saying, “I accept your love. I allow you to be a part of me and I allow you to nourish me.” Through touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight, food allows the transcendental experience of love to hold a physical shape in space. To share food with someone is to say, “I care about you enough to forego my own resources and nourishment for the sake of your wellbeing.” Making soup for a sick friend, cooking dinner for a date, or simply bringing your loved one their favorite chocolates, are seemingly small gestures that can hold such deep and intimate meaning.
While I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve prepared food for others, I can count the number of people I’ve cooked with on one hand. With each shared dish, I’ve become a better person. I’ve gained confidence while watching someone intuitively throwing spices into a pot and patience while waiting to be told to remove chicken from a pot of oil once it reaches a golden brown. I’ve experienced true friendship when leaving the oven light on to see the labor of love rise and the delicacy of love as she sliced pears so thin they resembled rice paper. When I imagine my final supper, the menu consists of these dishes and the table is set for those who nourished my body and soul.
Food and love are so intertwined that even our own bodies can sometimes confuse the two; to an extent, the body feeds off of love. When people begin to fall in love, they often lose their appetite. The presence of love increases the pleasure hormones in the brain and, although temporary, food no longer seems to be as much of a necessity. When people fall out of love, the body attempts to recreate the happy sensations provided by love through food. In an absence of positive emotions, food can soothe the body and activate the pleasure hormones. Just like foregoing food can have detrimental effects on the body, emotional deprivation can lead to physically negative impacts. They are both equally fundamental necessities for life.
It’s no wonder that literature often relies on these parallels to symbolize desire and affection. Lovers drink from each other’s lips, we eat our hearts out in longing: we hunger for love. Nothing is as primordial as our need to eat and to love. We swallow the last bite of our meal and along with the aftertaste we can feel love lingering on the tip of our tongue. But after all the plates are cleared from the table and the lingering taste is gone from our lips, love will still be present.