What is that?

In today’s modern age, technology acts as a chain that controls and prevents people from socializing with one another. Before it would have been difficult for two people to communicate if they were not close to each other. Now people would still text their friend even if their friend is standing right next to them. Technology and social media have created a bubble that has encased every user. The best way to pop that bubble is to put away the devices and enjoy a meal with others. 

On May 20th, we arrived in Italy after two long flights. During the car ride to Panzano, there were little to no conversations since we have not talked to each other that much besides exchanging basic information like name, age, and hometown. Despite being in town for a little over a day, there is already an event planned out, Dinner at Dario’s Cecchini. When we sat down at the table, almost everyone takes out his or her phone. The moment when the food comes out, the phones were put away, of course after some pictures. The meal is family style, therefore, either the huge plates of food or the individual small plates are required to be passed around. The act of passing the plates and asking someone if he or she wants something becomes a gateway for conversations. 

Besides from passing around the food, another way that can easily trigger a conversation is by having someone ask ‘What is that?’. This particular question can draw someone in and answer it with his or her knowledge and personal experience. Eventually, the conversation can lead into another topic, which would allow them to get to know more about one another. ‘What is that?’ or its various forms do not have to lead to another topic for the people to get to know each other. The question itself can inform the other person or the group about the individual who is asking the question. 

According to Fischler in Food, Self, and Identity, food can be a representation of our self and our identity. When a person does not know about a certain food or ingredient, it shows that he or she has not been exposed to it. It can be that it is not often used or cooked in his or her environment. This is also true for taste and preference. Someone might like something because he or she is used to eating that food and might hate something because he or she might not be familiar with it. The familiarity of certain foods is mostly framed by the individual’s environment and culture. 

By the end of our dinner, everyone is laughing and sharing funny stories. The result of the meal could have been different if everyone have ordered his or her meal and not share the food. Maybe there might have been conversations, but the progress would not be as progressive. The best way to bring people together is through a family style dinner that is served with food that is new to most people. So do not be afraid to share your food and ask ‘What is that?’ because it will always lead to interesting and meaningful conversations.  

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