Food is an inescapable component of life. It is categorized as a basic necessity, alongside shelter and clothing. It is the stimulus of trendy terms like ‘foodie’ and the hot topic for a vast array of TV shows and cookbooks. Aside from its practical commodity, food provides various social, educational, financial and spiritual opportunities for people to connect on a deeper level.
A recent study reported that families who make time to sit and eat a meal together are in effect reducing the risk of their children experiencing drug addictions and are providing them with increased motivation to achieve higher grades. Many cultures have strong spiritual and traditional connections to food that is reflected in its production, preparation and consumption. The Farm to Table movement encourages people to buy local as a means of creating sustainable economies and reducing our carbon footprint. Growing food on a larger scale requires business acumen and strong problem solving skills to identify and capitalize on niche markets. For many of us, food is a feature attraction at most social or sporting events. But how do our thoughts around food change when it is a scarcity? How do we use food to meet our basic needs in a way that maximizes health and increased social connections on a limited income? These are some of the thoughts we will be exploring in this month’s blog series, “In the Kitchen.”
How do you experience food? What does food mean to you and how would you feel if you didn’t have it?
When I think about what food means to me, my thoughts immediately go past the simple nourishment that food provides. Far beyond pizza and junk food nights with my girlfriends, to something more emotionally and mentally satisfying. For me, food can instantly change the mood you are in once you sit down at the kitchen or restaurant table, on the couch, or even the floor. Today, for example, my Mum and I took our dog Cooper for a walk down by the beach in Stoney Creek. At the end of our walk, we grabbed a hot dog and sat on a bench in a shady area, listening to the waves of the lake come in and out. Sure – the sun, sound of the waves, and the breeze made this a beautiful afternoon, but it was something about the charcoal marked hot dog and cold iced tea that enhanced the summer vibe. Food – whatever it is – enhances your surroundings the very moment you smell the dish or put it to your lips. Some of my favourite moments that include food are the ones that are shared amongst friends and family. Even when we aren’t eating, sharing recipes and dishing about favourite meals with my girlfriends is something that brings us all closer together. Ultimately, food enhances moments and creates memories amongst friends and family. I don’t know what I would do without food; without the richness that food brings to my life. The relationships that are built and conversations that are shared over the kitchen table are something that is very important to me. Without food, knowing now what it brings to my life, I believe that there would be a lack of conversation and relationships in my day-to-day life.
I see food in two ways: at its best, it is the centerpiece of family gatherings; the glue that brings and holds people together over a shared experience. At its worst, it is something to be processed, refined, and ultimately transformed into something we take for granted. There is no replacement for the experience of choosing fresh, local ingredients and using them to create a meal. Grilled vegetables in July, a gorgeous cheese plate in August, hearty soups in the fall… I appreciate meals more when I can see where the food came from, and the effort it took for me to get it to the dinner table! Of course, life – as it does – gets in the way, and we find ourselves grabbing packaged “100” calorie snacks and tin-foil wrapped hamburgers; food that is so far removed from its original source it can hardly be called food. It is here that I think a serious disconnect occurs. When we can’t see where our food came from, how it was made, it loses its value. Every year, thousands of pounds of perfectly nutritious, but oddly shaped fruit and vegetables are thrown away. Restaurants waste the end slices of bread loafs because they don’t make pretty sandwiches. All while there are people here in Niagara – let alone around the world –living in poverty with not enough food to eat. I think about the enjoyment I feel when I can look forward to cooking supper with my boyfriend at the end of the day. And then I think about the gut wrenching pain some must feel when they have no food in their cupboards. And the Niagara farmers who may one day be out of work because fruit in our grocery stores comes from the US. With these concerns in mind, I am trying to buy local produce, to cook more often, and to sit down and appreciate my meals when I can. If there’s a glass of wine and good company to be found, so much the better!
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