Food is love, or so it seems to me having grown up in a home where my mother always cooked enough food to make sure we didn’t go hungry, even if a passing army stopped by for a snack. Refusing the offer of more (never a problem for me personally) seemed to surprise friends who came to visit and weren’t used to having their arms twisted to eat their own bodyweight in food.
For me food has always been synonymous with family and that continues to be true today. If the ultimate act of love is to nurture another human being, then how can providing nutritious and delicious food be anything other than a hugely caring and generous deed?
Today, with small children of my own, I find that food is still very important. Not only in the meals I lovingly prepare for them to reject with a frown as they dismissively push their plates away from them, but also building deeper understanding of food. Scared livid by the Jamie Oliver programme that showed 10 year old kids who were unable to identify a leek, my eldest child was brainwashed into learning to name countless herbs, vegetables and fruit.
As a tottering toddler she’d confound other shoppers as I sent her off to get some basil, as they heard her chat to herself, ‘that’s thyme….that’s sage….here’s the basil’.
From there (and with a growing band of my own ‘little helpers’) we moved onto the act of growing our own food. I use the term loosely as, despite good intentions and even the odd moment where my enthusiasm matches my intention, my vegetable growing talents are far from legendary. However that doesn’t really matter, what matters is the shared act of tending to our vegetable patch together. Preparing the soil, sowing the seeds, watering, weeding (sometimes), watching them grow and then finally picking our meagre crops.
What fascinates me is how something that is likely to be instantly rejected when cooked and put on a plate, becomes more precious than the stickiest bun or bar of chocolate when it’s picked from the ground. The green tops of carrots (never mind the carrots themselves, which are real currency in our house!) are picked and eaten along with salad leaves, beans, broccoli flowers and cabbage leaves.
I don’t want to make it sound too idyllic. (My) Children are a fickle bunch and they are as likely to say ‘no don’t want to’ as to rush to get their shoes on when asked ‘who wants to do some gardening?’
But I am secure in the knowledge that my kids know where food comes from. It’s not something that is made in a factory, wrapped in plastic and put on a shelf. They know that fruit grows on trees and vegetables in the ground (though of course ‘tomatoes are really a fruit daddy’).
The reason why I think that matters is that it’s the basis for how we regard food and our attitudes to fundamental questions about where our food comes from (our vegetables will never make us self sufficient…so I’ll continue to buy stuff!). Where do we buy it from? How much of it is wasted? What impact is our diet having on the environment?
These questions are far less likely to even be raised unless we have an understanding of what food is and a respect for it.
I’m blogging today about food as part of Blog Action Day – linking bloggers around the world on issues of global importance.