Food . . . it’s more than what you put into your mouth

by Cheryl on October 16, 2009

Humans are animals. We need water, food and shelter. Our skin is tender, we’re slow moving, our offspring need years of care before they can fend for themselves, we can’t fly, and our teeth and fingernails are lousy weapons. But we have BIG brains. And we use them to figure out how to cover our skin to protect ourselves from temperature extremes and how to make tools to kill animals. We figured out which roots and leaves and berries were safe to eat. We learned to harness fire. We’re pretty darned smart.

Humans, like dogs and wolves and most other animals, need connection with our own kind. There is a whole catalog of words that describe communities of particular animals. My favorites include:

  • a murder of crows
  • a scold of jays
  • a convocation of eagles
  • a clutter of cats 
  • a covey of partridges

Human groups have names like family, clan, village, community, sorority, fraternity, congregation, neighborhood. . . city. Hmmm . . . cities. How were they formed? What is their relationship to food sources? Huh? Food and cities are related? You betcha!

Carolyn Steel is an architect. Here she talks about how food has shaped our cities. It’s a brain-stretcher if you’ve never thought about it before, but why do you think you have a brain? It’s the best tool you have for survival and it needs exercise as much as your legs do if you want to keep walking.

My passion right now is to empower young people to feed themselves nutritiously, deliciously and inexpensively when they go out on their own . . . but food is way more than just putting fuel into a body. Food connects us . . . to ourselves, our family and friends, our community, to our species and to our home planet. It connects us to our history and DNA. 

Heck . . . understanding our relationship to food may uncover some of the most important keys to ensuring the survival of our species. 

Tomorrow I’ll travel for hours to Seattle to eat a vegetarian Greek dinner prepared by a close friend. I’ll spend the night at her place and we’ll play a little the next morning. I love and miss her company so just going to see her would be enough . . . BUT . . . (or maybe it’s AND) . . . it’s a dinner party. She is creating an event to bring together friends from different parts of her world.  It will be delicious (she’s a killer cook), elegant (and a very classy lady), and the conversation will go on for hours over food. She’s bringing together parts of her community that are geographically scattered and building new connections. She’s using food as the glue. She is a Wise Woman.

Connecting to others by sharing food has been an important experience for humans for thousands of years. 

How do you connect to yourself and others with food? What does food mean to you?