When you think of a relationship, most of us think of our interactions with people. Specifically a relationship is considered when we think about those we are intimate with. I want you to, for a moment, consider your relationship with food or with meals. When we eat most of us, and yes I am guilty, tend to think about how fast we can get the “food” on the plate and consume it. The reality is we have no relationship with our food in this situation. To actually take the time to search the market for the freshest produce, and have the butcher cut the meat to order, then to bring it home slice, dice saute and eventually create a masterpiece is somewhat therapeutic. Moreover it creates an intention and a relationship with the food, the meal and those we searched out to purchase from. In this way we have created a social economy.
When we create a dynamic like this, we cannot stand in solitude. We have become part of something much larger than ourselves. Unfortunately many people will go along their lives never having experienced this particular phenomenon. When we intentionally set out to create this dynamic, we lose ourselves into a relationship. A relationship outside of the human form. We suddenly have this connection with our food, we consider the burst of flavors, we imagine the plating, and the aroma, often well before the meal is cooking. In the American kitchen the most prominent appliance is the microwave, followed closely by the freezer. It is this kind of situation that removes us from our food and leaves us empty after we have eaten.
I am often told that I am a good cook. I like to think that I am just more adventurous than most. I do love to cook, I love to dice and slice and saute and what I love most is to create. Maybe cooking is my artistic release. I like to try new ideas, half the time I just look in my cabinet and try to figure out what will be good with what. Last night I chopped up fresh spinach with some onions and some grapefruit. I took some organic tamari and sesame oil along with some pickled ginger and made my own dressing. It was fabulous! One of my best creations. Simple and not much to it. Most ingredients were fresh and organic. The idea is that if I can just throw things together so can anyone. My mother was by far one of the worst cooks in the world. Yet she cooked us dinner everyday. We sat at the table and ate as a family. To my mother’s credit, I cannot eat without a table for the most part. I can snack on nuts and fruit wherever, but to have a meal, I need a damn table. I will not be happy sitting in the living room watching TV. Nope, not this girl, I need a table, and furthermore I need a companion. Otherwise it feels empty.
I was once told to not fear the spice rack. I had all these spices and herbs that I had never even opened. I realized that I was stuck in a rut. To truly enjoy my food and cooking, I needed to step out and experiment. I think I have found my paradigm shift. I no longer fear the spice rack, nor do I fear foods I have never tried before, well except meat since I do not eat meat. In the end by creating a relationship with our food and an intention to have a meal, as defined by the French, commensal, which means to commune, we have changed the dynamic of our eating in one act. I challenge each of you to create one intentional meal, local, organic seasonal, to have fun with it to creatively design it and to commune over it with a close friend or lover. See if this changes the whole relationship with not only the food but the person or persons you commune over it with.