We get this question asked often, so we thought it best to have a better answer than “soup and sandwiches.” How ironic that the phrase “simple food and drink” needs an explanation.

When quality ingredients are prepared naturally and skillfully and shared with good friends, you have the making of a great meal. Let me tell a story to illustrate.

Several years ago I got the chance to travel to Kenya and Uganda in East Africa to visit friends I knew living there. One night I was taken several miles away into a very remote village to spend some time with a schoolteacher named Johnson. Much of our time together, as I recall, was spent preparing food together. We started with a long walk down the dusty road to a small market area where a vendor sold us rice and flour. When we returned to his tin covered cinder block dwelling, Johnson asked me to clean the rice. Ignorantly, I told him I didn’t know how to do that. He looked at me with contempt, wondering how someone like me, with my level of education, would not know how to clean rice. He proceeded to show me the technique.

The rice was poured into a shallow pan, and with a small wooden skewer, I was to pick out the chaff and other foreign bits that were left from the harvest process. This took a good hour. Johnson worked with the flour we purchased and formed the chapati (tortilla-like bread). He retrieved a bucket of coals from the community fire that was constantly burning in the center of the village. With this heat we cooked the rice and baked the chapati.

Through the whole experience, which began in the afternoon and lasted well into the night, we talked, shared stories and laughed about our cultural differences, of which there were many. But what we gathered around was the food. Despite our diverse heritages and that our homelands were on opposite sides of the globe, we had something deeply in common; our need to eat and enjoy community together.

Johnson and I shared simple food and drink together that day. It was not fancy or sophisticated, but he took the best quality rice and flour available and applied heat and skill and produced for both of us a great and memorable experience. I may likely never meet Johnson again, but I will never forget that meal.

Your meal at bread&cup will be more than rice and chapati, but we hope to apply the same principles with whatever quality products that we find. So let us set the table with simple food and drink; you bring the conversation. Together we’ll create a memorable spot in Lincoln’s Haymarket.

What is simple food and drink?