Food can unite and food can divide — often it does both. I think about food every day. What should we have for dinner? I shouldn’t have that scoop of ice cream, it’s not good for me. Don’t feed the dogs bites of people food, they’ve learned to beg at the table. The people in east Africa think about food every day too because they don’t have any, they’re literally starving to death. Politics, religion, warfare and government (or lack thereof) are preventing them from receiving lifesaving food aid.
Aside from giving as generously as you possibly can to groups like the American Refugee Committee, Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF I’m not sure how else we can help. I have little, but they have less so I give as I am able. The only other thing I can do is think long and hard about where my food comes from and how to be responsible with the feasts I’m lucky to have every day.
Almost every night I sleep with my iPod plugged into my ears — an inane and mindless podcast or audio book quietly murmuring in the background to drown out my thoughts. Because at night, I think. Some nights it’s about all the things I have to do the next day, sometimes it’s about money or the future, but many nights I need the noise to distract me from the images burned into my brain from the news of the day. Angry adults beating helpless children. Sadistic people “breeding” puppies and kittens and cramming them into tiny cages, disfiguring them for life. Elderly people, abandoned and alone in a cold nursing facility, waiting for someone — anyone — to come see them. Meeting rooms full of people figuring out how to deflect blame for an environmental disaster they caused, all in the name of profit. Farm workers, zombified after years of menial and repetitive work, kicking and punching sick animals on their way to slaughter. Stick-thin children with distended bellies and flies crawling on their faces, too weak to brush them away because they haven’t eaten or had water in days. I’ll stop so you don’t have to start sleeping with your iPod too.
Bad things happen in the world, but many people find comfort and solace in community and communities can be built around many things. I find joy, challenge, consolation, creativity, frustration, love and community in making, sharing and eating food. K and I met over a wonderful meal prepared with heart (metaphorically speaking) and we learned about each other and how we work as a team as we’ve cooked together over the years. We like to cook for others, so everyone can feel the warmth emanating from our kitchen and we can share laughter and conversation and nourishment together. Even when he gets bored in two minutes, I love to share time in the kitchen with my nephew (age 4) so he better understands that what he eats matters and knows where his food comes from. Food is always a shared topic of conversation whether you’ve never met someone before or you’ve known them for years. An entire group of people in our state, the MN Food Bloggers group, meet regularly to talk and laugh and share over food and drinks. Our happiest moments are often celebrated with sparkling cakes and our lowest hours are often soothed, if temporarily, by a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s.
I try not to eat emotionally or out of boredom (to varying degrees of success), and try to be mindful of the food we consume. I want what we eat to be nourishing and good for us, but also to be good for the planet. If we’re eating meat, I need to know that it was raised and slaughtered as humanely as possible. In this quest, we devote a significant amount of thought and time and a bit more money to food. But it’s worth it. I want us to eat real food, not chemicals. I want us to know where our food comes from — a nearby farm, processed in small batches so we don’t end up eating a fast food shit burger (that’s literally what’s in your fast food burgers America, sorry to be the bearer of bad news). I want our meals to be thoughtful and made with love, not reheated fake food in a chemical-leaching plastic container eaten while leaning over the kitchen counter or in front of the TV. I don’t want us to waste what we’ve got, so we compost scraps and have “clean out the fridge” dinners instead of leaving things too long so they go in the trash.
Food is love. May we all have both in abundance. This week, take a moment to really think about your food and where it comes from. Spend some time cooking a real meal or two for yourself and/or your family and friends. And, because we have so much, please consider making a donation to an organization helping to feed those in the Horn of Africa suffering from severe famine and drought in the hopes that they too will feel the love and the community built through food.