This Is What Sharing A Meal Means To Lidia Bastianich

Whether dinner, breakfast, or lunch, meals are something that happen every day of our lives, and often without a second thought! Some meals certainly stand out in our memory, like dinner on a first date, a birthday celebration, or an overstuffed Thanksgiving. But have you ever thought about what sharing a meal with others actually means to you? 

In her new special for PBS "Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming The Odds", Lidia Bastianich gets to see this importance firsthand. For the people she meets in the special, who have experienced periods of trauma and loss like losing a house to a natural disaster or growing up without a family, the gratitude they feel for something as simple as a meal is particularly poignant. 

Whether it's gathering after a time of hardship or enjoying a Sunday dinner with loved ones, Bastianich sums up very nicely in the film why she feels a simple meal is so important: "When you share food together, you're family."

Lidia Bastianich saw how cooking helped one young woman

In "Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming The Odds," spreading the joy that comes from preparing and sharing together is Lidia Bastianich's mission. She opens the film by noting that the pandemic has been particularly hard for her, that she has "mourned" the meals with friends new and old that could not take place. One of the stories that seemed to resonate particularly strongly with Bastianich was that of Kristen Thomas in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Thomas shares that she spent her entire childhood in foster care, never finding a permanent home, and become homeless when she aged out of the program. Friends and community members helped Thomas find a place to live and earn a college degree. After adopting a daughter of her own, Thomas realized she really wanted cooking lessons. "This young woman really felt the need to viscerally connect, because food is visceral," says Bastianich. "With the people that you love, you give them something that they make part of themselves." 

According to The Atlantic, dining with others creates a space where people can share, connect, and become open to new perspectives — things that don't happen when we eat alone. This is why so much importance is placed on kids sitting down for regular meals with their caregivers. 

Thomas' wish came true, in the form of cooking lessons with Bastianich herself! Together they make a panzanella salad, and as they share it Bastianich sweetly says to Thomas, "We're eating together. So, we are family."