As a culture, we are obsessed with food. We love our cooking shows, enjoy eating out in new and adventurous restaurants, and try new recipes galore.

And why shouldn’t we love food? Food has the ability to bind strangers together, strengthen families, heal our bodies, and create great memories and traditions. Food turns an ordinary day into a special occasion. Who doesn’t look forward to all the chocolates on Valentine’s Day?

But food can also be used as an emotional escape or an overindulgence—to our detriment. We need to be careful to hold this great gift from God in balance. Here are just a few ways to allow food to enrich our lives:

Food as hospitality: A meal invitation makes the stranger feel welcome and the friendless feel befriended. Food is a form of intimacy and caring. Walking across the street to meet your new neighbors with some delicious baked goods says new friend. Making a special dish or meal for someone says they are valued, honored, and remembered. Have you ever been to a dinner party where you didn’t know anyone other than the host and a couple other people but left feeling like you made new friends? Sitting around a food-laden table creates relationships. Cooking with others also builds intimacy. At your next dinner party, invite everyone to participate in meal preparation, or teach your kids to cook.

Food as a creative outlet: Just like painting, writing, or music, food can be a satisfying creative outlet and one that brings pleasure to others, and us especially when we present it as an offering. Explore new food combinations or different ethnic foods—or take a cooking class to get creative juices flowing.

Food as comfort: After the arrival of a newborn baby or the death of a loved one, the food starts to arrive. Friends and family members make meals and stock the refrigerator and freezer so families don’t have to cook. The food provision acts as a form of service and a way we offer comfort to the grieving or share in someone’s celebration. Cooking allows us to move beyond simply offering words.

Food as memory: Food ties us with our past. When we make Grandma’s recipes or Mom’s peanut butter cookies, no matter the miles between us, we are mentally returning home. Holiday meals are replete with memories. Maybe for you it’s the traditional pumpkin chiffon pie and the corn pudding you first enjoyed while living in the South. How many people return to their childhood town after years away and visit all their favorite eating establishments, eating their way through their memories?

For anyone captivated by the power of good food, The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano is the book for you. The author writes with tantalizing attention to meals. (Warning: you’ll find yourself very hungry while reading the book.) After working for 15 years in a restaurant, Denver chef Rachel Bishop is forced out after a smear campaign. The essayist responsible for the destruction of her career tries to repair the damage by hosting Saturday Night Supper Clubs in his luxury penthouse, inviting his connections to experience Rachel’s talents. If you are a foodie, you’ll come away with a deep appreciation for a chef’s life.

After reading The Saturday Night Supper Club, you might even consider gathering people around a welcoming table and enjoying an exceptional meal. In other words, start your own Saturday Night Supper Club! We’d love to hear about your efforts if you give it a try.

How does food relate to your memories and relationships? Please let us know in the comments!