Thursday, January 12, 2023

Eating Each Other's Food

Our household isn’t growing by numbers anymore, but our collective appetite is in a stage of exponential growth and one I expect to continue for a few years yet. Mark and I are not small people and neither are our offspring and we all love to eat. We acknowledge, nearly daily, how lucky we are to be able to raise and eat the food we do. We say the name of the animal and the part we’re eating, we talk about the farmer who grew the veggies, or the country from which some exotic ingredient came. We’ll research how something we’re not familiar with grows, how it might be harvested, how it gets to us. We’ll marvel over the colour and stain of a pickled beet, the yellowness of creamy, summer butter, the orange brightness of egg yolks from pastured hens and the flavour of the milk when the cow moves to fresh clover. We’ll all give a new cheese a deep whiff, gently poke at rising bread, nip some chilling cookie dough from the fridge and crunch into a sweet, cold carrot from the winter storage, gripping it with a mittened hand as we make our way back to the house with a bunch for supper.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get in a rut and tired of cooking. Some days, especially if I haven’t prepared anything in advance, it feels like drudgery and I start to resent this part of my job. I’ll mutter to myself about time wasting and hastily throw together a meal of relative convenience that checks bare-minimum boxes of completion and nutrition, but is hardly inspired or inspiring. Like, who decided that rather than just eat wheat, we should have to grind it up, make flour and then turn that flour into arduous pasta, or pie crusts, or bread or crackers. Why do we go to such lengths to put together some elaborate cream sauce when we could just eat some garlic, drink some milk, chew some herbs and save all the time and effort?


So this year, with my usual new years resolution gusto, I decided I wanted to avoid those occasional resentful moments in my kitchen. And I got to thinking about an idea I heard a couple years ago that suggests that at the most basic level, our entire purpose here, as humans on earth is to eat each other’s food. 
We might have grand ideas about the change we’re making in the world, or the importance of our careers, our goals, etc. But at the foundation of it all, at our very core as part of humanity, we’re here to be a member of a larger community and within that community, we eat. 
Why not make it awesome? Why not perfect that favourite sauce, why not make the fluffiest pancakes, use the sweetest cream from a cow on alfalfa pastures, find the best variety of corn for our garden soil, explore new flavours and interesting ingredients? 
When I’m able to think about it in that context, I start to think that we’ve actually been tricked into thinking cooking is drudgery and the kitchen is a jail cell. It’s easier for the profits of food companies if we think that so that we’ll buy more convenience foods, we’ll rely more on others to keep us fed so we have less control over what we eat and how it’s made. If we believe the lie that food is complicated, expensive and better left to someone else, we’ve missed the entire point of being here. 
To eat each other’s food.

to be continued...

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