Toast & Latte. That’s what we call it.
My friend Andrea makes me a latté using an Italian espresso maker she found in a charity shop. Yellow mug for me, blue cup for her. She slices bread, usually from a huge wheel of sourdough, puts the slices in the toaster, then spreads them with a slick of butter an a dollop of blueberry or strawberry jam. The jam comes from the stash she buys every summer while on Prince Edward Island. (You might remember her PEI morning rituals from episode 11 of The Food Podcast.)
We sit on stools on either side of a wooden island in the centre of her kitchen. We talk about life, from what we’re reading and working on, to what we’re struggling with and problems we hope to solve.
It’s time to say goodbye when the coffee is gone and all that’s left of the toast is a pile of tiny crumbs. We both have work to do, so we hug at the door, say a few more manic things that come to mind when time has run out, and off I go.
I always leave feeling buoyant, ready, inspired.
It’s no wonder; Brené Brown says in her latest book, Braving the Wilderness, that scientific research supports the importance of meeting face to face with people we care about. She quotes researcher Susan Pinker –
“There is no substitute for in person interactions. They are proven to bolster our immune system, send positive hormones surging through our blood steam to our brain, and, help us live longer…I call this building your village, and building it is a matter of life or death.”
Now that’s incentive.
I’ve been thinking about the power of face to face connection ever since the podcasting workshop I taught with Skye Manson at the My Open Kitchen Gathering in Australia.
Before I left for Australia, I made the students a ‘How to Start a Podcast’ ebook featuring the why’s and how’s of putting an audio show together. I made the ebook because I didn’t want the workshop to be occupied with the tech-y side of podcasting – the stuff that can be found online. Instead, we covered something that can only happen in person: face to face connection.
Connection wasn’t on the agenda for the class. It’s just what happens when people sit around a table and share what they’re working on, what they’re struggling with and problems we hope to solve. Just like a toast and latte session.
The actual agenda featured things like:
-how to interview
-the arc of a story
-how to find yourself in that story
-how to use everyday objects as writing prompts
Skye and I covered the table in sheets of butcher’s paper (for random note taking, doodles etc) and placed a wooden spoon, a pencil and a piece of paper at each place setting. The spoons were made by Terron Dodd of Episode 19, a character whose story is woven into every spoon he makes. My aunt Sandra, the Queen of workshops, tucked a pencil beside the spoons for me before I left and secured them with a quote by Paulus Berensohn- ‘whatever we touch is touching us’ – words she lives by. I wasn’t sure if these little bundles would make it through Australian customs… but they did. The students touched those smooth little spoons. They sketched them. They wrote down their own wooden spoon stories.
“My late father was from Fiji. He made wooden spoons. I use them everyday.”
“I was spanked by a wooden spoon. Whatever we touch is indeed touching us.”
“I didn’t have wooden spoons in my home growing up. But the smoothness of the surface, it reminds me of being soothed. I will create new memories with this little spoon.”
The spoons hold the story of Terron Dodd, but they were also a writing prompt, a portal into their lives, a path to their stories. There are so many layers to this little piece of wood.
When I look at this image I think about the sounds of the voices around the table. I think about the podcasts they hope to host one day, and the stories they will tell. I can taste the biscuits, made for us by Sophie Hansen.
I think that’s the difference: face to face connection has a sound, a flavour, a texture, a feeling. It’s nourishing.
Is it a matter of life and death? Who knows. But I’ll always choose nourishment.