Occasionally I am asked about bread&cup, “What kind of place is this?” Behind the query are such options as, “A bakery?” “A café?” “A bistro” “A sandwich place?” “A little spot for lunch?”

In developing any kind of definition, it helps us both to first know what we are setting out to accomplish. The objective is as simple as our food. We are creating an outstanding environment for conversation and reflection.

To unpack this idea, I have to explain to you the quote above my kitchen, facing the front door for everyone to see as they enter. It reads:

We live in a fascinating age of progress and scientific discovery. Technology offers us better and faster ways to communicate and share information with one another all across the planet. Yet with all its advancement, we believe nothing will provide a better channel for meeting our deepest needs of communication like the timeless practice of sharing simple food and drink.

We’ll set the table. You bring the conversation.

In this statement, I am trying to adopt a position of standing on two foundations, one built upon the best of the days before me, and the other, upon the strength and promise of the future. This is very hard to do, since when we yearn for the past, many ears hear people like me saying we should all become Amish, revoke women’s voting rights and reestablish Prohibition.

As a citizen of a new millennium, I am acutely aware of a tension that exists between the past and the future, especially as it pertains to food. I affirm the need and the benefit of returning to an understanding of the source of our food, and a connection to the land from which it was grown. There is not only nutritional value of enjoying fresh, whole foods grown naturally in unadulterated dirt, there is an intangible benefit from the understanding of its source as well.

At the same time, I am realistic in acknowledging the practicality of initiating this kind of quantum cultural shift. McDonald’s and Burger King are not going away anytime soon. Much of what is passed off as edible food is going to be contained in a cardboard box, aluminum can or plastic bag. Convenience is the operative word that drives the decisions for what and how we eat in this 21st century. Mine is just a tiny voice amid the cacophonous noise of a culture whose stomach has become disconnected from its soul.

Personally, I am glad to be alive in 2010. It is a fascinating age. I would be amazed, but not surprised, to witness a cure for cancer in my lifetime. Computers are getting smaller, more powerful, giving scientists and engineers the ability to solve more complex problems. I like this outlook. Armed with this muscle, I believe new, economical energy sources are within our reach. Given the choice of being alive now or in 1910, I’ll take today every time.

But at the same time I still want to be able to reach back and grasp what was good about life a hundred years ago, when our world was simpler, when electronic media did not rule our attention like an insecure dictator, and when the pace of life allowed for more meaningful human contact. Let me keep my computer, but remind me to close it down at some point each day and take up activity that will renew my understanding of what it means to be simply alive, wonderfully grateful and distinctly human.

The Stomach and the Soul