Shutterstock
Kristine Frederickson writes that gathering to make, share and eat food can be not only one of life's great joys but food and socializing also play an important role in our mortal experience and beyond.

A number of years ago I was in Prague, Czech Republic. When traveling, I never ask the hotel concierge to recommend a restaurant. They often work with certain eateries and send you to the fancy, dancy places for tourists. No thanks. But ask the bellhop, or the clerk behind the desk, or a local on the street to suggest a great local restaurant and you will rarely be disappointed.

Our hotel receptionist recommended a cellar, family-style restaurant about two blocks from where we were. We descended patterned-tiled stairs and once inside the restaurant, brightly colored, floor-to-ceiling murals of local scenes and costumed Czechs adorned the walls. A local band vigorously played joyful Czech polkas on fiddles, a bagpipe-like instrument, an accordion and with the requisite brass section.

I ordered a scrumptious goulash: beef simmered in a thick sauce of sweet tomatoes slathered in juicy, tender onions, accompanied by a basket of dense, dark bread. My sister, Stacie, and I split a spiced-apple strudel and fruit-filled kolach for dessert.

We shared a long table with some locals and a police group visiting from Germany. Most spoke at least broken English, and as I am able to sufficiently massacre German, we laughed and talked together, sharing lists of places to visit, and stories and pictures of home and families. Everyone was soon swaying, dancing (some onstage with the band), clapping and singing along. I’ve had many memorable eating experiences, but I will never forget that delightful evening.

In 1873, Elder Orson Pratt, in a sermon on the Resurrection, opined on what heaven would be like. He believed we would enjoy socializing together as we do here, and we will, “no doubt eat and drink in an immortal state, but whether it will be necessary to do this is another question entirely.” He reasoned, “’The Twelve Apostles,’ Jesus said, ‘shall eat and drink at my table, and shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,’ showing that the Lord will have a table, and that he will have food upon it, and that they will eat and drink at that table. …” (Journal of Discourses, 16:326-337)

My personal, fervent, hope is that we will not only eat and drink but food will contain no calories and both bread and chocolate will be food group staples.

Of course, Elder Pratt’s thoughts, and my hopes, are our own. However, he hits upon something that is important and consequential in mortality. Many wonderful memories are built around kitchen counters where people gather and prepare meals, around tables where family and friends eat and converse together, and around social gatherings where food plays a role — very often enhancing the experience.

I, for one, can’t begin to count the friendships and joyful, loving relationships that have developed and deepened over shared meals, at book groups graced by finger foods, appetizers and desserts and at other food-themed gatherings.

Regarding the need to socialize, UCLA scientist Matthew Lieberman explained in "Why We Are Wired to Connect" on scientificamerican.com, “We are learning about the true role of our social nature in our happiness and success in life. … The data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. … We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.

Another article, "9 Scientifically Proven Reasons to Eat Dinner as a Family" on goodnet.org listed a number of “science-based reasons” that prove “family dinners are important,” but the data can be applied to other social gatherings, including, “Eating meals together strengthens family bonds as it provides … a sense of security and feeling of belonging.” Sharing food together strengthens “emotional and mental health,” intellectual achievement, and helps “reduce the tension and strain from long hours” at work, in or out of the home.

Comment on this story

President Spencer W. Kimball taught in "Ocean Currents and Family Influences" in the October 1974 general conference: “It is important for us also to cultivate in our own family (and among friends) a sense that we belong together eternally, that whatever changes outside our home, there are fundamental aspects of our relationship which will never change.”

Humans need food to live and they need sociality to thrive. While all things must be done in moderation, eating and socializing included, our loving Father in Heaven has provided us with opportunities to create lasting memories by combining food and friendship in ways that will cement bonds of love and affection and last well beyond mortality.