Not the first word that comes to mind when we think about food. Hunger, guilt, diet, and calories are more common thoughts that pass our collective American mind when we contemplate what goes through our mouth three or more times a day.
But respect for food, meals, and mealtimes is crucially missing from our modern and instant culture. A fast food culture. Fast preparation, fast consumption, always on the go. Eating has become a quick, and often times guilty pleasure, met almost immediately post consumption with feelings of remorse – from the heartburn 30 minutes after a combo-burger meal, to the needle on the scale in the bathroom the next morning. Not to mention a warning from the doctor during periodic checkups.
Now think about the holiday season that is ending. The festivity, the family get together, the joint breaking of bread at the dining room table. Culinary delights. Laughter. Joy. Togetherness. Yes, you’ve worked hard in the kitchen. But the pleasure of eating real food, perhaps with a good glass of wine or two, and the flow of conversation with real friends is … well … priceless.
Too bad this happens just a handful of times every year. Once upon a time, every evening culminated in a family dinner shared by the entire crew. Not all dinners were fancy, far from it, but they were usually fresh cooked. Parents talked with their children, and with each other. Life lessons were learned, values forged.
We’re not trying to over-romanticize here, and certainly don’t think the world needs to go back to the days where the mothers/wives “slaved away” for hours in the kitchen.
But we’ve come to the other extreme today. For many people, the kitchen is the place you visit to take the frozen food out of the freezer, unwrap it, microwave it and then consume it while watching TV or at playing at the computer. The dining room? That’s a museum. Or an “inverse” museum. Closed all year, open on Christmas Day.
There’s got to be a better balance. And that’s what we’d like to propose for 2010 and the coming decade. Let’s give food a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
If we pay a little more respect to food, we can reclaim the pleasures of dining, of family-time, and even cooking. It’s not such a drag to cook when the entire family is working together. And with all the amenities of the modern kitchen, combined with awesome ingredients one can get from any supermarket, millions of simple recipes are at everyone’s fingertips.
If we respect food, we’ll begin to identify lots of impostors, or as Michal Pollan calls them, food-like substances. The absence of these non-foods from our lives – no longer brought into our pantry and refrigerator, no more wolved down at quick service establishments, no longer associated with us – will surely have a positive impact on our health.
Have a happy, tasty, and healthy new year.
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