Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections

Karin Melberg Schwier and Erin Schwier Stewart

Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections — People with and without Disabilities Together at Mealtime

Eating is something that we all do to stay alive, whether we have disabilities or not. Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connection—People with and without Disabilities Together at Mealtime provides a useful guide for people with disabilities and those who know and care for them to make the most of mealtimes.

As famous chef Michael Smith states in the foreword to this book, “The simple act of preparing and eating food together reinforces the humanity in us all.” People with disabilities sometimes miss out on these essential aspects of dining.

For people with disabilities mealtimes present powerful opportunities to create a sense of community in lives that often crave normalcy. Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections is a practical collection of recommendations, guidelines, and personal stories and photographs from around the world for making the most of our mealtime experiences. Mealtimes are about much more than the simple act of eating. They are opportunities to enjoy the congeniality of others in meaningful social rituals.

Authors Schweier and Stewart have personal and professional experiences with people with disabilities, and their handbook also includes practical input from a nutritionist, human services professionals, educators, and people with disabilities and their families. Schweier is the stepparent of a young man with an intellectual disability, and Stewart is an occupational therapist and the sister of a young man with an intellectual disability.

Based on the personal experiences of the authors, and with the help of experts and other people with and without disabilities, this practical guidebook has the goal of assisting its readers enjoy pleasurable, fully inclusive mealtimes.

Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections offers insights into what dining can mean and how to support people with disabilities during their dining experiences. It covers both broad topics and specific techniques for making the most of each mealtime’s social opportunities with family, friends, and neighbors. For example, there is a whole page of tips for getting to know someone that lists specific questions to ask the person to find out who the person is and how the reader might help that person understand who he/she is, in turn. The book also offers comprehensive checklists for making informed decisions about what, where, when, and how to eat. Finally, there are recommendations about how to communicate choices and needs in relation to meals and mealtimes.

A very useful aspect of this book is the variety of recipes included in the appendix. These recipes cover all aspects of meal preparation. The recipes were chosen because they include many distinct steps that can be done in sequence or on their own as contributions to creating a portion of a larger cooking or baking effort. The recipes are written for people who have little or no experience in meal preparation, so that they can enjoy a sense of participation and accomplishment that small tasks—such as stirring and placing items in a bowl or dish—can bring. Many of these recipes are accompanied with clear drawings, along with their texts. They are easy to follow, even for those who are not very experienced in cooking.

The last chapter of Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections is titled “Memorable Meals,” and it is an invitation for readers to remember important meals and the emotions and sensations that these memories create. A checklist of questions is offered to help readers spark these memories. The readers are asked to close their eyes and recall the occasions of such memories, who was there, how old they were, what time of year it was, where the meal occurred, what the smells were, whether there were other people present, what everyone was wearing, whether there was music, and, of course, what food was eaten. Most importantly, readers are asked to think about the emotions and sensations that these memories elicit as they recall them.

Everyone’s cherished memories of breaking bread and sharing meals are different, and this is equally true for people with and without disabilities. The book ends with the stories and voices of many people from all walks of life who recall their special meals, dishes, and occasions.

As the authors remind us, “Often, it is not the food itself that is the central element of mealtime meanings. Rather, the important thing is the binder—the connection—that holds to us so many of our most cherished memories of friends and family throughout our lives.”

Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections is available from Brookes Publishing in Baltimore, Md.

(Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2005)

Dr. Henrietta Shirk is the head of the Professional and Technical Communication Department at Montana Tech.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *