Each day has its surprises and uncertainties, but one certainty people have is that they are going to (and must) eat. Eating is a part of our everyday lives. For some it is a joy, a chance to take a break from the day and enjoy what the earth has given us. For others it is a dreaded event or something one forgets to do or puts off until all work is done. For many, food and eating is imbibed with mixed feelings. But have you ever thought of where your food comes from or the consequences of eating it on your body or the environment? Have you thought about its connection to your relationships and its ability to foster, or harm, communities?
Tamara’s post on eating local asks us to question the source of our food. I’m asking you to take this one step further – the affect of food on communities. This past summer/fall I visited Italy for three weeks and then lived in Tanzania for six months. In each country, food and eating were integral to relationships and communities. In order to “be polite” and to respect customs, traditions, and the families I was eating with, I ate foods which I don’t normally eat and quantities of it which made me sick. The act of doing so made me think about eating as integral to relationships. A recent New York Times article titled “I Love You, But You Love Meat” shows this connection between food and relationships. Many people choose (or loose) their partners based on how and what they eat. On a greater scale, whole communities can reject or look disapprovingly upon people who do not share their tastes (when I said I was vegetarian in rural parts of Italy people were outraged).
A national organization, Slow Food USA, understands this connection and has built a movement around it. It advocates understanding where your food comes from – being socially and environmentally responsible – and enjoying it (slowly): As their site states, “Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair.” At first it may seem overwhelming and difficult to achieve a food system which is “good, clean, and fair,” but every little thing counts – like switching to mostly local foods, sitting for lunch rather than standing, and taking time to cook for yourself. If we all did this, I truly believe that our lives and communities would benefit.