Meanings of Food
Apparently talking about food gets me feeling about as poetic as I get! Since I'm writing about food again, I thought I might share it with you as well. This was a musing on the meanings of food for my food policies and systems class... The hardest part was keeping it to one page apparently.
I always tell people that my world basically revolves around food. I joined the Navy to pay for culinary school, went to school for nutrition in the mean time, finally made it to culinary school, got a job teaching cooking on a farm and am now working on a graduate degree in nutrition. I think that counts! I honestly probably think about food more each day than most do in a week. And not just- what am I going to have for dinner, but the ins and outs of the how and why behind the food. How it grows, how it gets to people, how to prepare it, best ways to eat it, what it does in your body once you do- these are all interconnected and fascinating to me! Actually, learning about food systems and policies was part of my undergrad degree. Reading “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle got me fired up. That was the start of igniting a fight in me. I am just starting to see the possible purpose of that fight as I think about it, and I hope this class continues to inform what that may be. But that’s still just one part of what food means.
“You are what you eat”. There is a surprising amount of debate on this statement in the research. I suppose everyone has their interpretations of what this means. But really, food is fuel. Food is what feeds and builds and rebuilds the cells and tissues in the body- thus making you out of what you have eaten. Beyond calories, food is also information, a statement that is becoming widely acknowledged by experts such as Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr David Perlmutter, those at the Kushi Institute and others involved in fields such as nutrigenomics. This new field is beginning to take off as people research applications of food for health, including prevention and possible treatment for conditions such as Alzheimer disease (Athansopoulos, Karagiannis, & Tsolaki, 2016). While I’m glad that this is being recognized in modern science, I almost have to laugh because people have inherently known this throughout history. You cannot live without food and to live well and long, you need good foods.
Food is also an expression of love. Cooking for someone else is a universal way to convey that you care about them. Parents cook for and feed their children; people cook to impress potential mates, or at least take them out to nice dinners. Emotional eating is a way of coping with feelings through the use of food. This in part is related to the comfort it provides both physiologically and often through positive associations with childhood or with happy memories. Growing or raising food is also an act of love. It takes great care and concern to raise food well. It takes attention and dedication, perseverance and passion. Farming, ranching, cooking and all areas intimately connected with food are jobs of service. They come from the heart in a way that few other fields or industries require. And there is argument to be made that there is no more important use of time, land, energy or resources than that of producing food. While our current primary version of this is fatally flawed, there is still opportunity to change it. There are still other avenues and methods being used that are being recognized as valuable and worthwhile. Most of these value the wisdom of historical systems and methods, while utilizing some of the best of modern technology and resources. And this is the way to ensure that the love continues.
Reference: Athansopoulos,D., Karagiannis, G., & Tsolaki, M. (2016) Recent Findings in Alzheimer Disease and Nutrition Focusing on Epigenetics. Adv Nutr. 2016 Sep 15;7(5):917-27. doi: 10.3945/an.116.012229. Print 2016 Sep.