Every time I look at the image from Meditation that appears on the last page of this issue (click here to view), I feel a sense of comfort. The scene is really familiar that it’s as if it could be my own hands passing the dish across the table — as if it could be my very own group of close friends sharing that meal.

I love how Alice Waters’s quote speaks to the importance of the table as a place of connection, growth, and discovery. Because it’s around tables that we nourish ourselves — physically, emotionally, and socially. It’s where friendships are formed, news is shared, and decisions are created. It’s where we gather to cele­brate milestones and to mourn losses.

“If the home is the body, the table may be the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health,” author Shauna Niequist wrote in her own 2021 memoir Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. Tables are, for a lot of of us, a center­ piece within our homes — and our lives.

I grew up in a big, extended family, and many Sundays several of us would share breakfast or lunch inside my grand­ parents’ home after church. We'd cram around the kitchen table, enjoy­ ing the meals, but savoring each other’s company much more.

Those days set the standard for how I hoped my own family would connect someday. Then when my husband and I purchased a new table for our home, I knew I wanted it to have lots of room. I imagined our future children sitting on the bench, their legs swinging under­ neath, and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins near by.

We chose a table with a hand-hewn top that may withstand everyday use, from dropped forks to pencil marks. It’s where art projects and columns such as this come to be, where the four of us sit down every evening to catch on our days, and where we’ve hosted many memorable meals over the past 10 years.

My parents’ dining­-room table has a much longer history — it was built simultaneously as their century­-old farm­house. The beautiful, hand ­carved oak piece is a treasured heirloom that has served as the hub of countless holiday gatherings, games, and conversa­tions for six generations of our family. Whenever my 86­-year-­old grandpa joins us for any meal, he reminds us when we look underneath, we’ll see the marks where his grandfather would strike matches to light his pipe after supper.

The table to win me most recently was in the vacation home where my husband and I spent a week with 10 in our friends in February.

As we gathered round the enor­mous glass table every morning and evening for meals, I felt a renewed appreciation for each of these people in my life — and profound gratitude the timing had worked for us to accept trip together. While that table’s presence in my life was fleeting, its impact was no less important: As we passed dishes and ate side by side, we learned new things about each other, forged deeper connections, and created memories that will last a lifetime.

Food is usually what raises the table, day in and day out. Yet mealtime is often about so much more than what we eat: It’s also about those gathered around us and the shared experience.

So while this issue of Experience Life is dedicated to food — and there’s a lot good stuff for you to learn, try, and enjoy — I hope it also inspires you to definitely slow down, sit down, and take it all in. To listen, to partake, and to be pres­ent with all who join you while dining.