From Kendall Vanderslice
Eating together is an intimate act. The sensual process of sharing and enjoying food with others, the giving of one’s time and resources in cooking for another – commensality creates the space to know those who share the table beyond just conversation.
Eating can also be a reconciling act. Sitting around the table bonds people together in both a physical and social sense, leveling out differences in social standing. By taking part in the very physical process of sharing a meal, bodies express unity even before words.
As Peter stepped out of the boat aware that it was Jesus calling him over, I’m sure his stomach was churning, unable to escape the shame of his earlier denial. While he had probably seen Jesus with the other disciples, as far as we know his denial had not yet been addressed. “I need to apologize!” he was probably thinking, “But how can I admit to Jesus that I denied even knowing Him!”
As Peter made his way to the shore, Jesus offered him a meal. They sat eating a breakfast of fish and bread, what appears to be Jesus first meal with Peter after the resurrection; in this action, Jesus made a physical offer of reconciliation. Before Peter confessed what he had done, before Jesus spoke words of forgiveness, before the sin that was likely tearing at Peter’s soul was ever verbally addressed, Jesus invited Peter to join him in the incredibly intimate and reconciling act of sharing a meal.
The later exchange between Peter and Jesus was not just a matter of convenient timing; it was their way of finally naming what had already occurred. Before asking Peter if he loves Jesus, Jesus offered a physical manifestation of His own love. Jesus restored Peter’s relationship to Himself before they ever even spoke of what Peter had done. The intimacy of that meal spoke volumes to Peter, strengthening him to confess to Jesus in the knowledge that his denial would never be held against him.
I am the pastry chef at Pelekasis at Wink & Nod, a Greek pop-up restaurant currently residing in the South End. I am also a student in Boston University’s Gastronomy program, studying theology of food and commensality – the social dynamics of eating together. Read more of my thoughts on the intersection of food, faith, and culture at www.avandersliceofthesweetlife.com.