Every Friday night, as I was growing up, my family went to the same bakery for homemade oven-fired pizza, at a hole-in-the wall spot just down the road from us in our small town in rural Vermont. Although located far from a bustling metropolis, Rainbow Sweets still serves some of my favorite food in the entire world. The pizza is like no other; the pastries and cakes soar leagues above the rest. It is, without a doubt, my favorite restaurant in the entire world.
But then again, I am a bit biased, as the owner did bake my parents their wedding cake and weigh me on his old-fashioned copper pastry scale when I was a newborn.
One fateful Friday, for reasons I can not quite remember, my sister and I decided to order something other than pizza. My dad, a man of confidence and certainty, opted for his usual: Pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms. Though this time, rather than a large for the entire family to split, he got a small, personal size. “Are you sure you guys don’t want pizza?” he asked, disbelieving. We were sure.
As our food arrived it became abundantly clear that we had erred. The pizza landed, hot, sizzling, and tempting. Immediately, hands darted towards the steaming cheesy beacon; promising to clear away each and every slice of my dad’s carefully considered dinner. “Hey!” He yelled, staring at us with his commanding, steely blue eyes. “This,” he motioned around the pizza and his place setting “is a NO SHARE ZONE!”
The incident stuck with us. I even made my father a custom T-shirt commemorating the moment.
Years later, the question remains. Does one have the authority to declare a sovereign food territory? We’re pickers. We share. We order dishes depending on what one another chooses, so that we can each taste every item we desire. The No Share Zone was a shocking and altogether new concept. But, perhaps a necessary one.
Within my family, our eating style differs. My mom’s eyes are bigger than her stomach, and she always orders or serves herself more than she could possibly consume. We berate her for it. My dad and I have been deemed by my sister to be “aggressive eaters,” because as soon as communal food arrives, we pounce to claim the best bits for ourselves. Though perhaps “aggressive,” I am extremely deliberate; I painstakingly save my favorite, most scrumptious bites for last. As opposed to my sister who goes for broke to begin with and always finds herself jealous of me, when, say, all of her Halloween candy is gone whilst I continue to hoard mine for months on end.
Is a No Share Zone the only possible way to ensure a fair and equitable dining experience for all? Nay, I say. Nay! For if we do not share, pick, taste, barter and exchange, our meals become in some way, solitary. Singular rather than collective: by refusing to share, we alienate ourselves from the very experience that makes a meal feel complete: love.