Shorter days, the end of the growing season, and upcoming holiday meals provide an opportunity for many of us to reflect. Here at Big Green, we recently discussed food and gratitude, and although being grateful for food can be simple and concise, many of us brought up a different reason to be grateful for our food.
At face value, food provides us with the energy and nutrition we need to function, focus, and grow. Eating food is both pleasurable and satisfying as it provides a sensual experience of flavors, textures, aromas, colors, and personal content, and satisfaction. But top of the physical experience, food tells a story, brings back memories that connect us to our families and identities, and it introduces us to other people, places, and cultures around the world.
Today, much of the food we eat is produced by food corporations who tell us new stories about the food they sell, from cartoon heroes selling cereal, to chihuahuas selling tacos. These stories actually district us from the true stories behind the food they sell, but if we dig just a little deeper, we will find that all foods tell us a much richer and interesting story than any advertising campaign possibly could. For me, I find that true gratitude is usually expressed through a story, so here I would like to take a moment to consider what stories we can pull from our food.
- Many dishes we love have a country, or culture of origin. Preparing a dish that came from a place different from our own is a great way to learn about and connect with those people, and the place that they live.
- If you are drawn to biology, ecology, or environmental studies, then consider that each plant or animal you eat has an origin in some native landscape, and a role and relationship with the local climate, pollinators, animals, other plants, and local soils which all tell an amazing story. Learning about these relationships help you learn about that place and may help you grow that plant more effectively in your own garden.
- If you are a history buff, you might think about the advancement of humans over time, first hunter gatherers, then the rise of agrarian societies, and many stories of food even explain the rise and fall of empires. Over time, our relationship with food has shaped the plants and animals we eat, and often determined the domestication of some plants and animals and the extinction of others.
- If nutrition is important to you, then consider that food is the source of all our nutrition, and food in turn pulls it’s nutrition from the soil that it grows in. Learning about the nutritional value of food teaches us about our own bodies, and our own nutritional needs. Each specific food provides us with a different array of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, sugars, fats, and vitamins that are unique to that plant or animal, and on top of that, all the colors we find in foods can provide us with unique nutrition that is important to our health.
- If social justice is on your mind, look to where our food was grown, and ask about the people involved in growing it. Today, industrial food production relies on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, as food workers are often underpaid, and work in challenging and even unsafe work environments. If we look just a few generations back, almost all the crops we eat today were carefully, and skillfully selected, curated, and stewarded by indigenous cultures around the world for thousands of years, improving on flavor, nutrition, and yields. Important stories come from learning about those people, and asking where those people are today, and are they still able to grow the foods that are their inheritance and gift to the world?
- And of course, if you grew food in your garden, or if you know the farmer who grew your food, you have a personal story to tell and the labor of love that went into bringing that food to your table.
Sharing food, and sharing stories are often some of the most memorable experiences we can offer. As we approach the holidays, and prepare to share meals with our families and friends, consider sharing stories through the meals you prepare and serve. Include ingredients that share a meaningful story, and I hope you find that doing so brings additional value and an extra bit of gratitude to your holidays this year.
– Farmer Tim