In a month that’s known for food bringing people together, I can’t help but think of the power of a meal and how the simple act of sharing food with another human being makes you feel a part of a greater whole. This month I want to break protocol and share a personal experience that taught me a good lesson on sharing food.
Two years ago, I traveled on my own for the first time. As I watched the beautiful buildings of Lisbon, Portugal, during the airplane’s descent, I thought it was odd traveling to a place where everyone was a stranger. As I settled into my hostel, I wondered where I was going to eat that night, and all nights thereafter. That’s when I met Pedro, the hostel chef, and he invited me to eat at the hostel that night with other guests. It was the first time I had ever shared a meal with eight complete strangers. I met people from Australia, Egypt, Japan, England, and Russia, and it was awkward to spark a conversation when we first sat at the table. As Pedro began cooking his meals, the delicious aroma of food opened up our appetites and our excitement to eat sparked lengthy conversations about our love of food. As the hours went by, we realized that with the help of Pedro’s amazing three-course meal, endless supply of wine, and amazing chocolate mousse for dessert, we had all become friends and were no longer traveling alone in a strange land.
Having a strong passion for good food, the experience of making friends over food wasn’t new in my life. But never before had I witnessed how unifying it could be, and was surprised how connected I felt that night with these new friends. Since that trip, I have traveled alone to many countries, and every time a local learns that I am far from home and alone, they invite me to a quick meal and good conversation. Those meals are the most cherished memories of my trips, and I have repaid many of my new friends in kind by introducing them to Armenian cuisine when they’ve traveled through Los Angeles.
You don’t have to be traveling to be far from home and to experience the kindness of strangers. With the holiday season upon us, I can’t help but think of all the people who have been displaced from their homes due to the economy, inclement weather, and other unfortunate circumstances. I encourage you all to donate your time by volunteering with organizations that are helping those in need. Share a meal, listen to stories, feel the connection, and experience the power of breaking bread with strangers.
Pedro’s Chocolate Mousse
12 egg whites
8 egg yolks
150 grams of chocolate
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Mix 12 egg whites with 2 tablespoon of sugar with a hand-held mixer in a bowl until you see sharp peaks form. Set aside and melt the chocolate, butter, and heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 8 egg yolks to the chocolate mixture and remove from heat. Slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg white mixture. Stir until both mixtures are combined and you see little air bubbles form. Place in refrigerator and allow to set for at least an hour.