Eating is the simple act of feeding the body. It’s something we need in order to survive in life.

Dining, on the other hand, goes deeper than just putting food into our mouthes. I’ve always said it’s a spiritual connection that we have between God and the people sitting in our dining chairs. It’s more than food, presentation, and taste. It’s about people and what happens around our tables and it’s good for our souls.

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When you think about the “setting,” it can add an element of “life” whether a fancy restaurant, a picnic, an outdoor dinner party, an elegant wedding celebration. It’s not always about the food, is it?

I love eating with old friends, even “older” friends, and getting to know new friends, reminiscing, sharing, serving (yes, when we have a dinner party in our home, my husband and I will “serve”).

It’s all about relationships.

What if the conversation is boring? How do you liven it up? Add personality or charisma to the evening? That’s a tough question, because depending on our attitude, if we’re being hospitable (realizing that it is not about us!) it takes the pressure off of expectations and disappointments. We have to think of questions to ask one another. It’s okay … that is how we get to know each other.

I recently overheard someone saying that ‘dining’ is much stuffier, more pretentious than just eating. Again, it depends on how you view the experience. No matter how fancy the restaurant or home, if it’s a place where we all come together to laugh, share and commune, so I don’t see dining as a stiff experience. Stiffness comes when we are rigid, unknowable, and we can’t connect with others.

Going in to a meal, I’ve really noticed that my attitude changes everything. It’s a barometer for how I treat my family ahead of time, my guests at the door, and then for the remainder of the evening. If my attitude is bad, the “feel” of the eating experience can become fake and shallow.

A riff
It’s about the diners. The guests. The bodies in the chairs … however you want to put it. We all know that being in the most creative place, stunning ambience, enticing food … but you’re with someone who has no respect for you, or you for them, it changes the experience.

Interesting food
Edith Shaeffer is a role model of mine. She wrote about food being an art in her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking. She changed my view of how food should be presented nicely, how it should have flair and flavor, and how it can become a work of art. There’s nothing better than going to dinner in a home or restaurant that serves “interesting” or beautiful food.

What about thinking ahead to your dining experience and having a vision of how it will nourish your body, but also your soul. I know that sounds “heady,” but that thought recently came to me when we were preparing to go to friends’ house for a fabulous meal. I was excited thinking ahead to my friend’s cooking and how I was going to sit back, enjoy, relax, and savor every bite.

When you look around and see that everyone is having a good time, that is success. We’ll never know what each pallate experiences, and usually we don’t discuss every bite with those around the table. But when there is laughter, joy, and an overall sense of happiness – I just chalk it up to a good time for all.

I think of classy dining for sure with linens, even if ti’s just the cloth napkins. It’s also classy when everything has some kind of continuity, or matches … where there is a pattern, color scheme, or even though it’s simple, a good feel.

I really don’t care about gourmet and I try not to use that word very much. I think it’s pretentious, in a way. Gourmet paints us in a corner, it labels us, it’s a little snooty. When it comes to hospitality and entertaining, again, the food is important but the experience goes way further than the fine details of how food is cooked and served. I love gourmet, yes, but I’d never want to make anyone feel bad who doesn’t cook so elaborately.

So again, there are places that bring more to the table than a meal (eating = putting food in the mouth). Dining together means that we enjoy the flavors, no matter the setting, but we really enjoy the company.

Good company makes food taste a whole lot better.

Wouldn’t you agree?

How do you define the difference between eating and dining?