Everybody eats. We may all come from different places, belief systems, political affiliations and football divisions, but at least once a day, every last one of us puts food into our bodies to fuel us for the road ahead.
We also all suffer loss, both on a global scale and in the gut. At times like these, eating might seem like the least important, most impossible task on the planet, but it can feed so much more than the stomach.
A shared meal, a dropped-off plate of cookies or a raised glass can add a much-needed note of normalcy in an overwhelming time. As groups like Operation BBQ Relief and Team Rubicon speed toward Moore, Oklahoma to feed and assist tornado victims, here are eight stories of times when food helped people find a little bit of respite in a world turned upside town.
1. After Newtown, healing people one pie at a time
Beth Howard lost her husband suddenly and tragically at the age of 43. In an effort to make sense of it all and connect with other souls, she began making and giving away pies. When tragedy struck Newtown, Connecticut, Howard did the only thing she could.
"Beth Howard pulled up to Newtown in her 24-foot-long camper, loaded with 240 apple pies.
She dished out pie to kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School, grieving parents and anyone who asked.
She describes herself as an attaché for grief, with her greatest gift being pie 'made from love.' Most people simply call her 'the pie lady.'
'Pie is meant to be shared,' she said. 'It's meant to be given away.'
As she spoke, there was a knock on her door. Women preparing a wake for one of the slain girls would like some pie for mourners.
"Could we give them three pies?" a helper asked.
'Of course,' Howard said. 'Will you please put ribbons on them?'"
Read - Bringing healing to Newtown, one pie at a time
2. After a funeral, the comfort of macaroni
When my beloved uncle died after a long, cruel battle with Parkinson's Disease, it left a hole that felt as if would never be filled. A simple plate of pasta helped more than I could have ever imagined.
"Moments before, it had seemed wrong to do something so life affirming and self indulgent as eating -- especially something at all delicious -- while Father Bill had suffered for so long and would never sit down to a meal again. Penance was clearly in order, enough plain water and bread to keep breathing and walking, but nothing else.
But someone had clearly made this dish -- stood at the stove and cooked this comforting food, knowing that some grieving people would need to eat. I took a forkful.
It was humble, delicious and solid and tasted as if it were made with love. Father Bill would have approved. I cleaned my plate."
Read - Filling the void -- eating after a funeral
3. After the Boston bombings, a chef opens the doors
Chef Jason Bond, like all his neighbors, was at a loss when makeshift bombs tore a hole through his beloved city. In the midst of the confusion and chaos, he opened his restaurant and gave people a place to rally.
"We realized that we each help by doing what we do; medics medicate, journalists report, the police protect. As a restaurateur I did what I do, which is care for people and provide sustenance and healing.
As a cook, I wanted to be open and offer care to the people in my neighborhood who needed the comfort, distraction, a meal, a break. We were all shaking, but we could be shaken together. As a business owner, it was no time to make a profit, so the entire sales of that night were given to help aid the people and the families who were affected by those bombs a few hours before. More will be given as we go forward."
Read - Serving up comfort food after a tragedy
4. After a chef's health crisis, food for the heart