A Note About This Feature: Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about. Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.
For most of my life, I didn’t have much respect for food. I grew up on a diet made primarily of fast food, microwaveable meals, and processed junk food. Without getting too much into the details, I was essentially raised in a single-parent household and my mom was busy. She worked. She went to school for a few years in addition to work. Every once in a while she would cook on a weekend or a holiday, but it wasn’t the norm, so we did what we needed to. When your food comes in a cardboard box or is handed to you through a window, it’s easy not to have much respect for it.
I ate it. I enjoyed it. I craved it. But, I didn’t really think about it much.
I didn’t think about its nutritional content (or lack thereof) or its cost. I certainly didn’t think about where it came from or what it took to make or produce my food. As far as I was concerned, if The Hamburglar wasn’t trying to steal away my Happy Meal, all was well.
As I’ve grown, this has changed dramatically, especially in the last couple of years.
I work with individuals living in poverty. Good people who take their $200 of ‘food stamps’ each month and do what they can to ensure they won’t starve until the 1st of the next month rolls around and they get their next $200. That inevitably makes me consider the cost of food.
Now that I’m an active runner, I notice how even subtle changes in my diet impact the way my body feels and works and moves. Eat the ‘wrong’ thing and my body feels sluggish. Eat the ‘right’ thing and I have the energy and strength I need to run as far as I choose. That certainly makes me think about nutritional value.
I stay well- informed on world events and social issues, so I read all too often about the abuse and maltreatment of crop pickers and dangerous conditions in food production plants. So that definitely leads me to ponder the ethics of food production.
And, tending to be the introspective-type, I frequently consider my personal relationship with food and food-related issues, which is a complex relationship to say the least. My grandfather was, essentially, a farmer for many years. He worked hard, every day, to produce crops that raked in money for those he worked for, though he certainly never saw huge paychecks himself. He tended and toiled and understood food in ways that I likely never will. I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture plan) during crop-producing months and sometimes I think about him when I unpack my goodies. Vegetables that were actually watered and touched and picked and packed by people who cared about what they were producing. Sometimes I get excited about this and think I will start a balcony herb garden! I must have some ‘green’ genes in me passed on by my grandfather, surely! Right?!
Then I remember the last three times that I did try to start a balcony herb garden. I recall the shriveled herbs, dirty pots, and withered plants creating an eyesore on my balcony and mocking me with my urban farming failures. And as I remember them, I have all that much more respect for the skill and patience that it takes to grow something beautiful and bountiful.
When being introspective, I also think about how I eat differently these days. Like, literally, how I consume my food. You see, I used to generally eat one of two ways. I all too often ate on-the-go. I can’t even begin to count up the thousands of meals I have eaten in my car. Alternatively, even when I actually ate at home or somewhere similar, it was usually while multitasking to the point that I barely even noticed what I was eating at all. I ate while working, studying, cleaning, you name it. There was pretty much zero connection between the behavior of eating and the experience of it. Now, though probably busier than ever, I slow down to eat. I take my lunch break away from my desk. I eat dinner with others in my household. When I eat at a restaurant, I take the time to enjoy the experience of it. Changing this approach to eating has given me an appreciation for the ways that food connects me to others. The conversations shared over a meal are some of my favorite and the act of sharing a personally prepared meal with others feels comforting and intimate in a way that few other acts do. Plus, as someone with a bit of social anxiety disorder, I have found that strangers can always talk about food – and it tends to be a bit more interesting then discussing the weather.
Food is a common, shared denominator, a linking factor in all of our lives and it nourishes us (or hurts us) in innumerable ways. The relationships that it builds, the work it takes, the care it demands, the desire it elicits and the frustration it can bring are more powerful than we often acknowledge. I have certainly been guilty of taking it all for granted in the past, though I’m trying a bit of a different strategy these days, one with much more respect for the food on my table, the people behind it, and those that I share it with.
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