I have been thinking about food a lot lately. And by "lately" I mean more along the lines of the past several years.
I don't know precisely when it started. Perhaps when I got married? maybe when I stopped eating at the campus dining halls? or maybe when I left Momma's homemade meals and went to college? But thoughts have been ruminating in my head for some time, and I think I have recently come to a few conclusions.
Two particular books helped solidify these conclusions: Nourishing Traditions and Omnivore's Dilemma. The first I received as a wedding/first anniversary present from a family friend (whose husband is a doctor) and the second I borrowed from T's parents, after they read it. There were many other influences and nudges along the way, but these two books were the primary drivers.
I don't want this to turn into a debate about nutrition or "the way things should be," or even the way things were "in the good ol' days." I don't want to sound like a nut :) But still, I do have some very strong opinions about food (unfortunately, anyone who's come over for dinner at our house knows this. I can get... a little carried away).
And so, to the point.
First of all, food is nourishment for our bodies. People want to stay alive, right? So they eat. Good. But the nourishment food offers us, as community beings, isn't only physical. In many ways, food can nourish us spiritually, too. John Paul the Great's theology of the body teaches us that there are physical realities that point to spiritual truths. I think that food (at least to some degree) is the same way. Good food, eaten in the company of good friends, bringing back good memories, creating new memories, etc., etc., can nourish our souls just as much as the cells in our bodies.
For my birthday two years ago, I received Cold Weather Cooking. [I highly recommend this book. Not only are the recipes fabulous but the stories that Chase adds to the recipes make them tastier, somehow.] We all have our favorite cold weather recipes that remind us of something. I love soups. Anytime it's rainy or cloudy or cold outside, it's a "soup" day for me. It warms up the kitchen and it warms up my body. Who's to say it doesn't "warm up" my soul, too? Served at a big table, in a warm house, with warm-from-the-oven bread, and surrounded by friends--is there a better recipe for a happy evening? And what about that favorite dish your Mom always made? Why else would it be called comfort food if it didn't bring comfort?
My point is this: food is important stuff. It should be held in high regard. It should be respected. Pollan has a great description in his book of a microwavable can of soup that's been "re-designed" to fit in the cup holder of your car. Ooh! the innovation! the convenience! :Þ I can't think of a better image to demonstrate the drastically low place food--real food--holds in our society today. Everything else in our lives these days is fast-paced, erratic, busy, bustling, and frantic. Let food be something comforting again..
As the main cook in our household, I take food seriously. I want to feed my family good things that come from a good place. I want them to be happy with the food they're eating and I want them to be healthy people. I want them to have a good attitude toward food and to love it without obsessing over it.
I value the traditions that I have inherited with the types of foods I eat, even the little ones. Having certain foods at certain times of year, for instance. The grocery store has been the death of eating seasonally. It seems the only thing we get seasonally now is candy (ever notice you can never find Candy Corn in February?).
Another example: I like to sit down to eat my breakfast (heck, I like to eat breakfast)--no on-the-go breakfast bars with a latte in a paper cup for me, thankyouverymuch. And I like family meals--even though we're just a family of two right now, I try to have a sit-down meal every night and chat about our day. We pray whenever we eat, thanking God for His gifts (T usually adds: "which Annie has made") and asking for that bounty to continue.
So, because we need to eat to survive, food has a very central place in our lives and culture. That should be acknowledged (in a healthy way). No gluttony (as in: more is always better). No starvation (as in: food = enemy of my figure). This doesn't mean we can't have decadent foods, but it does mean that those foods have their place and shouldn't be super-sized out of it. Hold on to eating traditions. Keep a good balance. Make good food. And eat it in the company of loved ones.
I have more to say but I think this is enough for one post :)