If you could share a meal with someone living or dead, who would it be?

We’ve all entertained that conversation at one time or another.  And it’s the easiest question I’ve ever answered.

My grandparents.

No Regrets

As I shared in my first book, Success With Less:  

When I’m facing a crossroads in my life, I look for signs.  Ideally, those clear

indicators of which path to choose. There’s one sign I seek most consistently: 

the directional arrow that points to the path with no regrets.

Because I want to live my life with no regrets.

Don’t you?

Regrets are heavy baggage we carry in life.  When we miss the school play for

work.  Fail in a relationship.  Leave important words left unsaid. 

Regrets take up energy and space.  They feel like bricks in a suitcase, constantly

dragging behind you.  Making the path to your next destination treacherous.

Draining energy that could be used to enjoy the journey.  Threatening to drag you

to the ground at any moment.  To that lowest, weakest, most powerless feeling

version of yourself.

In my case, my desired destination was living a life with no regrets.

I was overjoyed when my beloved grandparents revealed their decision to move back to Florida from Indiana in 2005.  Living a few zip codes apart gifted me the opportunity to choose the path with no regrets in our relationship.

I resolved to make the most of every moment.

What Matters?

My grandparents had a room in the house they raised their kids in that we accurately and affectionately referred to as “the junk room.”  The only evidence that the room previously served a purpose was the bulky black upright piano perched against the interior wall.  I held my breath to suck my stomach in far enough to shimmy between the bench and the pearly keys.  Each time I played a loud note, I was terrified of toppling the towers of boxes precariously perched floor to ceiling.

We referred to the basement of the same house as my grandfather’s “office.”  His antique desk with a rolling wooden chair faced a retro refrigerator and a hulking pool table.  The opposite corner housed the washer and dryer alongside a collapsible wooden drying rack.  Purple grow lights illuminated my grandmother’s flourishing African violets.

An abandoned ironing board became the final resting place for shirts she intended to iron when her kids were young.  

My grandmother always had the best intentions when it came to household chores, though she often got sidetracked on the follow through.  She embodied Erma Bombeck, late American humorist, who famously wrote, “My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.” 

What I came to understand later in life was what those shirts symbolized…what matters.  My grandmother’s version of living a life with no regrets was choosing to spend her time on what really mattered – her family, her faith and her friends.

We saw the sunrise together many mornings after staying up all night talking.  Somehow ironing shirts never came up in the conversation.

Redefining Sunday Funday

Our summer sleepovers and sunrise sightings illuminated the path with no regrets upon our reunion.  Even though I was “busy,” I vowed to make and to keep one commitment regardless of the cost.  

Sunday dinner.

If my grandmother could abandon her ironing or sacrifice sleep, I could do the same.  If my grandfather could provide us with decades of dining and driving lessons and Disney World, I could do the same.

The true test came when we lost my grandmother on June 1, 2013.  I was devastated and heartbroken.  One bright ray shone through my dense fog of grief:  no regrets.     

My grandfather and I remain committed to Sunday dinner together as long as life allows. Because we’ve come to the same discovery.     

Our Sunday dinner tradition nourishes us.

Nourish = Time + Energy + Focus

Nourishing yourself goes beyond what you eat.  Or where you eat.  Or with whom you eat.  Or how well you photograph what you eat.

Belonging is ultimately what nourishes us all.

And nourishment results from a balanced blend of time, energy and focus.  Of turning down the noise, turning off the phone and tuning in to someone else in a way that says, “You matter.”

And you do.  You matter.  You don’t have to settle for blending.  You deserve belonging.

And that’s why I wrote this book.  To invite you into the experience of how belonging feels.  To share simple recipes to nourish yourself and others on the way to belonging, from conversation sparks to culinary secrets.  And to inspire you to become a catalyst who creates community with a gathering tradition of your own. 

“We’ve had some good times together through the years, Little One.”

My grandfather still calls me ”Little One” from time to time.  Even though I’m not so little anymore.  His endearing sentiments sparked my enthusiasm to capture him and his wisdom in tribute. 

You’re invited to a seat at our table.

You belong here.  Your place is already reserved and set for your success.  A menu of choices commences in the chapters to follow.  You are welcome to devour this book cover to cover or to slowly sample chapter by chapter.  You are welcome to savor this book as a journal, a cookbook, a book of inspirational quotes, a photo album, a memoir, a gathering guide or all of the above.  

Each chapter stands alone and includes three simple ingredients you may choose to fold into your own recipe for creating conversation, connection and community: 

  • Salvator Says:  Wisdom from my grandfather.
  • Pause + Ponder:  A prompt to provoke discovery and discussion about what his wisdom means to you and how to incorporate his wisdom into your life.
  • Mangia!:  A recipe from our family archives ( “Mangia!” = “Eat” in Italian).

However you choose to gather, may the memories you make nourish you and feed the legacy you leave.

Excerpted from Sundays With Salvator: 52 Recipes To Cultivate Conversation, Connection, And Community, by Karen Mangia. Published Oct, 10, 2023.