“With Bread”: The Etymology & Theology of Companionship

I’m a bit of a nerd. For instance, when I was younger, I, like many youngsters, memorized the alphabet. But that wasn’t enough for my young mind. I memorized not only the individual letters of the alphabet, but their corresponding numbers. So, A’s corresponding number is 1, B’s is 2, C’s is 3, and so on. This might sound simple enough, but wait, there’s more. I took it upon myself to memorize the sums and products of adding and multiplying letters by their corresponding numbers. With very little hesitation I could come up with the letters, numbers, and mathematical results when asked. Surprisingly, not too many people were looking for this information.

Fast forward to present day and I am still rather nerdy. (Thankfully, my wife has a soft spot for nerds.) I love words and their origins. Etymology is a hobby of mine that is – in my mind – worth its weight in gold. Mining the ins and outs of a word opens up meaning and interpretation. Like a flower in bloom, examining word origins, contexts, and histories allows for vibrant colors and nuanced designs previously hidden from view to emerge.

A few years ago, I was purchasing some bread from a grocery store for a shared meal. It was thinly sliced and aromatic. Perfectly baked crust protected the soft innards waiting for us to pluck apart. It was the kind of bread you should probably buy two loaves: one for the car ride home and one for the meal. Yet, what struck me on this particular occasion was the name of the bread. It wasn’t entitled “Italian Bread” although it was. Rather than translating the Italian, they had aptly and simply left it as, Pane.

And this triggered my etymological impulses.

Pane is a word derived from Latin meaning “bread.” It has a long and variegated history as it has been paired with a multitude of other terms. Nearly all of them center on bread of some sort.

The interesting thing is that the prefix com- means “with” stemming from the original Latin cum. When cum is used, it indicates a conjoining of two things. Pairings, groups, usage of items are all placed in relationship with the term cum.

Together cum + pane give us companion. Thus, your companions are the ones whom you are together “with bread.” Literally. Again, the etymology of companion opens our eyes to its history in that its Latin ancestor used to mean “messmate.” For the Latin speaking world and its cognates, companion wasn’t a general term. Your companions were the ones you ate with, the ones your broke bread with, the ones you shared a common table.

Companion points beyond itself to indicate the kinds of relationships eating together produces. Strangers and acquaintances become companions through eating together. Families flourish as they sit face-to-face sharing what is provided. Meals have been – and still are – the primary means of breaking down relational walls between folks. They are often the glue within communities due to their inherent hospitable nature.

The question then becomes, “With whom do we regularly share meals?” For those of us who claim to be Jesus-followers, this is a question central to our faith and discipleship. All too often, however, it has been relegated to a peripheral position in the life of faith. For many it has fallen too far down the list of Jesus-priorities, so much so, that it has become invisible for many. In my opinion, if there is one central practice we must reinvigorate and reincorporate into the life of the Church it is eating together. And, it seems, etymologically speaking, if we are to do this as companions, we must be true to the word by breaking bread together.

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Want to read the rest of this post?

You can read it at Missio Alliance where it was originally posted. There I discuss the postures and practices of presence, vulnerability, mutuality, and creation care inherent to shared meals and companionship. You can find the rest of it here: “‘With Bread’: The Etymology & Theology of Companionship”.

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Roasted Chicken and Vegetables: A Simple Meal (With Great Leftovers)

I am not a cook and am nowhere near anything resembling a chef. Thankfully, my wife grew up in the house of a chef – her father – and can cook. I have reaped the many benefits of this upbringing and, for this, I am forever grateful. Seriously, it is amazing.

However, this meal is quickly becoming my favorite. Not only does it taste unbelievable, is locally grown and organic, it is also ridiculously easy to prepare. In our efforts to simplify life while becoming more and more aware of what it is we are eating, we have found that this meal has become a weekly staple in our house. Not only do we love it, our daughters (ages 4 and 2; 9 month old will soon) eat it up too. In many ways, this meal and others like it, have begun to reshape our imaginations and practices surrounding food as we participate in both our local ecology and economy.

What you see below feeds all of us well.

Ingredients

Whole, cleaned chicken

2 Carrots

3-5 Potatoes – both red and white

1-2 Sweet potatoes

1 Red/green/purple pepper

1 eggplant

(Add any other vegetables you’d like.)

Olive Oil

Coarse Kosher Salt

Materials

Parchment paper

Dutch Oven

Baking/cookie sheet

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Preparation

1. Preheat your oven to 450° F.

2. While waiting for the oven to preheat, rinse your vegetables. Peal and cut into similar sized pieces for even cooking.

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3. After vegetables are rinsed, pealed and cut, place the parchment paper on the baking/cookie sheet. Drizzle them lightly with olive oil as a coating, so they don’t stick to the parchment paper.

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4. We purchase organic, grass fed chickens from Hilltop Farms in Moravia. For local folks, Hilltop Farm’s farmer, Delmar, is in Shed A at the Regional Market every Saturday. He is always in the middle of the aisle waiting with chickens, eggs, and a warm Mennonite smile. (We always get our eggs from him as well.)

Clean what remnants (feathers) may be on your chicken and place breast-side up in your Dutch oven. Graciously salt and place in your oven for 25 minutes. We always place it on the upper rack to ensure crispy skin and juicy meat.

After the initial 25 minutes, place your vegetables sheet on the lower rack for another 25 minutes.

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5. Take both vegetables and chicken out of oven after 50 minutes. Poke the thighs with a fork; if clear liquid comes out, then it is finished.

Let rest for 15-20 minutes and then dive in!   DSC00896

Leftovers

My wife always uses the leftovers of the chicken to make stock for future dishes. Again, it is easy as the meal above.

Stock

1. Fill Dutch oven with water until approximately half of the chicken is covered.

2. Turn heat up to HIGH until boiling.

3. Once boiling, turn heat to LOW and let simmer for 45-60 minutes.

4. Take chicken out of Dutch oven.

5. Place a strainer in your favorite refrigerator-safe container and pour contents into it.

6. Allow to cool prior to refrigeratoring. After it chills, use it in rice, orzo, or whatever else you want.

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I hope this was helpful. If you are just embarking on the local, organic, slow food journey or have been traveling this path for some time, I’d love to hear what and how you eat. What have you learned? What are you enjoying?