Food is meant to be shared. I don’t think in the history of humanity, that we ever expected there would be a significant population of individuals struggling to conjure up the energy and motivation to feed themselves each day.
I have thought long and hard about this topic. Each time I consider cooking my meals for the week, I dread the thought. I started to question my intention and drive to cook; when it comes easily to me and when I avoid it at all costs.
The short answer is, I think eating and preparing food alone was never designed to be solitary. It goes against our evolutionary programming as a species. I could keep asking questions and a million “Why’s” but that could end up being a special on Netflix.
Sometimes I like to play a little game I call “What would our ancestors do?” A major component of eating as a group or preparing food as a group would come down to labour. Hunting animals is hard. Foraging for wild ingredients is hard. So having your community or your family assist in these tasks makes a lot of sense. Dividing the efforts is a much more efficient use of time.
Fast forward to 2019 where all our ingredients are laid out in a grocery store in a pristine Jenga-like arrangement. Meat is skinned, de-boned, portioned, butchered, seasoned and sometimes, hold your gasps; already cooked. The shock, the horror. So we have removed a large part of the labour in retrieving the food. This has so many implications: we can’t identify what edible plants are in the wild, we don’t exercise all day by walking long distances and we lose preparation skills when ingredients are prepared for us. That connection to food is a powerful one, when you choose your own strawberry to eat or butcher your own chicken.
I look back to my childhood and even long-term relationships that I have had. One of the things I cherished the most was all the meals we shared together. Breakfast before school or work, dinner together at the table to discuss our day. We are social creatures by nature. As I commute to work, I see a sea of zombies driving vehicles; alone, myself included.We are going against our nature in a lot of unhealthy ways. Not walking much, barely socializing in sedentary jobs, having food prepared for us because it’s convenient. There have definitely been times where I would rather eat at a restaurant because then I at least get to talk to someone, even if they are not sitting down with me. That last sentence made me sad, but that’s why I am writing this post because I don’t think I am the only one who has felt this.
When do I prepare the best food? It’s simple, it’s when I am cooking it for others. I cook with purpose and with joy. I can brainstorm new ideas and come up with a fun concept that will become a memorable experience for all of us. Sure, I still make decent food for myself because I know I can’t just wither away and die. But there are some nights where I have a bowl of cereal and toast for dinner. Or maybe if I indulge myself in an extra few minutes, I’ll whip up some eggs with hot sauce. It’s that fine line of sustenance and procrastination.
This culture of convenience has poured over into the new generation in the most alarming ways. I am already shocked at the state of teenagers these days barely being able to spell, and forgetting basic etiquette, amongst a plethora of other disappointments that education, society and over-protective parents can all share the blame for. But what truly makes me sad is that people can live their entire lives without even flirting with the idea of learning how to prepare food for themselves, let alone others. Some never learned from their families or some just pay for every meal to be prepared in a restaurant for them. They are still alive but food is one of those fundamental sources that connect us as inhabitants on Earth. Sure, the taste is of utmost importance but the hidden elements that have been removed: growing our own foods, collecting our own foods and preparing our own foods with our “tribe” or loved ones really drain all the positive potential from this daily ritual we partake in three times a day.
Wow that was a rambling post but it feels good to let out some of these things I have been thinking about. Sometimes when I feel like I have a lack of culture here in Canada I look back to my roots, times that I felt more part of a community or more fulfilled. Even growing my herbs on my patio garden this year, I felt like they were my pets and eating my own basil pesto had a different meaning to me than if I had just bought a bag of basil. Take it a step further, when I share that with my friends and family, I have a deep personal connection to what I have prepared for them. I watered the basil for months, checked on it and talked to it every day, put it in a new pot, cut its leaves but not all of them so it could keep growing.
So yeah, what is my take-home message here? Find a way to be connected to the ingredients you use. Maybe go to a local farmer’s market and touch some vegetables. Be curious, pick things up and smell them. Google what the plant looks like that has the fruit attached to it. Ask the farmers some questions. Make human connections over the ingredients. Invite some friends or family over to share a meal together. Potlucks are great! Lastly, if you are like me and live alone, next time you prepare your lunches for the week, think about someone you can share a portion with. Sometimes I bring an extra container and give it to someone at my workplace. We could even share it with someone less fortunate, especially this time of year. This is a good way to turn something that is not so fun, into a way to still connect with someone. I don’t have any family here on the island so whenever I receive a cookie or a dish from one of my friends, it has more meaning to me than they may even know. Food is love, especially when it’s made with our hands.