I think a lot about food and eating because I find it to be a useful portal into our humanity. The way we choose to feed ourselves personally and collectively has implications for every aspect of our lives.
As I revealed in my first blog post on this subject, there are hidden costs in our efforts to save time in the kitchen. The most obvious of these is the cost to our health. As a result of hiring corporations to feed us, rather than taking the time to feed ourselves, we have increased our ”free” time while decreasing the quality of our health.
There are many other hidden costs besides our health. This blog touches on the price we all pay in the form of social tolls saving time has cost us. My purpose in exposing these tolls is not to lay blame with one institution, one type of business, or any individual per se. And I am not suggesting a return to a previous way of living and eating.
My intention is to keep us contemplating what’s left in the wake of our eating choices. When we understand more fully how our decisions affect us and the world around us, we can make even more powerful choices for change.
The last 60 years have been a radical shift away from the way we have eaten and shared food for millennia. During this time the social part of our meals has slowly been removed. Family dinners where everyone sits at the same table and eats the same thing are more and more rare. We eat alone, and on the run. Our cultural identities are now forming around single-serving, pre-packaged fast foods that seem to be born out of thin air and arrive magically on our plates, if they ever see a plate.
And the reality is this is all a big experiment! We are only just beginning to understand the implications of this shift away from the unifying bond of sharing real, home cooked meals.
Of all the aspects of culture that bind us together, I would argue that food has had the most powerful influence. One thing that makes us “human” is the way our survival and evolution has revolved around the sharing of food. The social structures we take for granted, our communities, marriage, families, the division of labor, our ability to cooperate and communicate to insure our collective survival, all began with the sharing of food.
The root of our cultural identity has always had at least one foot in the kitchen or at least a seat at the table. Generations of memories revolve around the sharing of food with kin.
The costs of removing this aspect of our social and cultural identity are many:
- alienation, loss of the sense of belonging, of connection to family and community
- loss of connection to what truly nourishes us, where our food comes from, the environment, and the earth
- lack of understanding of what it takes to produce food for our consumption
Food has become an entitlement, a source of entertainment in the form of sensory stimulus and indulgence. When sharing a common pot with others is not part of our experience, it is easy to assume that one’s individual needs take precedence over the needs of others.
As a result of all this there is a profound lack of gratitude, respect, and appreciation for what we do eat, and for the social structures that are deteriorating around us as a result.
The overabundance of cheap easy fast foods has created a disconnect. Without even realizing it we are losing an essential part of our humanity, of our connectedness to one another. Before we give up this part of ourselves without a fight, lets at least ask what we want. What kind of humans do we want to be?
Let’s find new and innovative ways to use food and eating as a positive social glue and as a way to connect more deeply to others and the world we live in. I see it happening in many grassroots community programs.
At Mbodied, I bring people together in both virtual programs and in-person classes to share the experience of nourishing oneself. The idea is to celebrate and express gratitude for this life through the way we eat. By bringing awareness to how and what we eat, we can consciously take back this important window into our humanity.