"I cannot play with you," the fox said. "I am not tamed."
"Ah! Please excuse me," said the little prince...."What does that mean--'tame'?"...
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
--from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Around the dinner table of Mary Cowal and Mary Etta Perry, it has been said more than once, there has never been a bad meal--or a bad time. Red-as-a-just-picked-strawberry jam drips from bread fresh out of the oven. Homemade mango chutney complements an array of exotic dishes that hail from South Africa to the far corners of Asia. Shrimp fresh from the Carolina coast rest in a nest of pasta, or bask in coconut milk and Thai spices. Brunch is likely to be crepes with cream cheese and strawberries, or a fresh fruit salad that makes the mouth water.
I have been "tamed" at this table. I have known rich communion here, where a place can always be set for one more and the soup can always be made to stretch. Hospice and home-care patients, friends with AIDS, colleagues in efforts for racial justice, women and their children in desperate circumstances--all are brought in presence or spirit to this table, where the world's suffering is gathered in and given up to God in prayer before partaking of abundant nourishment.
In winter, the meal often ends around the fireplace; in summer, on the back porch with iced tea, made from mint picked out of the garden. If you're lucky, Mary Etta will read one of her poems before the evening is over. But still the experience is not complete--not until the last guest arrives.