Updated: Apr 21, 2021
There is something very familiar to me about this current historical moment. Not so much the frenzied toilet paper runs or the ravaged bread aisles at the supermarket, but rather the overwhelming sense of being “in this together.” It’s a mantra which I hope is familiar to most.
The phrase best encapsulates my experience with college athletics better than any other. In the pool, knowledge of this togetherness kept us all sane. During a grueling practice (of which there were many), the sense that all the suffering was communal is what enabled us to get through it and hold everything together. We wanted to be strong for our teammates because they were being strong for us. It was an unspoken but visceral motivational force that each of us carried into every lap.
Outside of the pool the “in this together” mentality was felt most at meal time. I was fortunate to live in a house with 5 other swimmers who cared quite a lot about what they ate (and drank); never in the sense of nutritional value, but in the sense that what they were eating had to be quite good. Food for us was much more than sustenance. It was about the technique and most of all the ritual of sitting down together, after our joint efforts and having a feast.
For us, the biggest meal of the week was always Sunday Night Feast. We’d pick a theme and depending on each of our academic workloads, delegate cooking tasks accordingly. Between sourcing ingredients, prep work and actually cooking, it was not uncommon to spend 6-8 hours getting these dinners off the ground. I can recall traveling more than 20 miles on several occasions to track down some of our more obscure ingredients. We were broke college students living in Williamsburg, Virginia - not necessarily a town where you could find black truffle at your local Food Lion, or Bloom, back in the day.
Over time, what had started out with just 6 of us ballooned into 15 and sometimes over 20 people. Ironically, this was how we made inroads with the soccer team who were always down to hang out, eat, and have a bevvy. There was also one friend, Niall (like the river), who managed to establish himself as a tri-athlete (soccer, swimming, golf). He was instrumental in bridging the gap and bringing together soccer & swim.
These dinners became the highlight of our week. They represented the family we had become and they were the result of hard work and collaboration. After all the cooking was done and the table had been set, they provided an opportunity to commune, to reflect and to be in the moment with those we cared about most. Whether we were reflecting on our day or that morning’s practice, for me these dinners were the embodiment of “in this together.”
Never have I felt the “in this together” sentiment with so many others before. In this time of global uncertainty I’m reminded of how important these words are and how impactful they can be. Whether over a meal with those you’re quarantined with or over a beer with friends on facetime, these words are important reminders of collective strength. I feel thankful, now more than ever, to have learned this through the power of sport and community.
So, in these unusual times, embrace the power of food, drink, and community (albeit virtual). Appreciate the beauty of starting from scratch to create something that makes you feel good and is ultimately the one thing that will keep you going in these challenging times.
About the Author Lukas is a former Division 1 athlete who now finds himself cooking, drinking, and tasting his way through New York City. He’s worked at restaurants like Kappo Masa, The Modern, and currently works as a sommelier at 3 Michelin star restaurant, Le Bernardin. While he continues to surround himself with some of the most talented chefs and sommeliers in the world, the very basics of cooking and bringing people together are at the core of what he does best. Check out this article in the Virginian Pilot that covers one of his team's last dinner parties before graduation.