Why food matters

Art on a plate

Food.  We all eat; we share it. Now, WHAT we eat and how we eat, how we prepare said food, that is the topic of many blogs, articles and an entire industry.

More and more, whether you a foodie or not, you’re aware of your food today in a way that you weren’t only a couple of years ago. Every time we open a magazine, turn on the TV,  read a newspaper or check in with a website, there something about food: a famous chef, food poisoning alert, a quick recipe, corporate farming, a new restaurant, sustainable food. Its a hot topic. We’re inundated with information about food and its sources.  Even for those of us passionate about food, its hard to keep track of it all. But the more important question is “why do we care?”

We care because we instinctively understand that we are what we eat. We know this in our souls, our minds and in particular our bodies. But I believe that in this very difficult economic time, food matters more than it ever has before.

Art on a pallette at a Farmer's Market

Every day, we are reminded of how little in our lives we actually control.  We can’t control the guy with the fat fingers who sends the stock market tumbling. We can’t control lay-offs and oil spills. We can’t control Greece’s economy or even our own. But what we can control and what brings us comfort, is the food we choose to eat. We can actively choose to make decisions that impact ourselves, our communities and our future simply by what sits in our refrigerators. Small choices they may be, but small decisions have major impact. In my mind, a farmer’s market is one of the best examples of this philosophy at work. Our control over our food is completely ours. Most 10 year-olds could eloquently argue my next point, but aside from them, no one makes us buy or eat something we absolutely do not want to eat.

Art in the heart. Bloggers.

But its more than control. Food creates the very things that we as a society crave.  Food brings us comfort. Food gives us community. I know of almost no one today who isn’t over-worked, under paid and barely appreciated at their jobs. Yet, at the end of the day, my husband and I meet at the dinner table. The weight of the day is temporarily lifted.  Before us sits a meal that says “you matter.”  Whether or not we cook, we are all a community of “eaters”. When we partake with those we love, we are reaffirming our collective commitment to spending time together. When we share an experience, we reaffirm our relationships. We create a moment from which to draw on in the future. A memory, a laugh, a tear. We share. We do it over the plates prepared with passion and love as we lift our forks to mouths as open as our hearts and minds. For those of us who write about food and read about food, we know that there is a community to like-minded passionates.  We reach out into one another’s blogs, kitchens and homes. We reconvene before dinner and after. Sometimes we discuss our foibles, sometimes we kvetch about the experience, sometimes we help one another out.  But we always know, somewhere, some place is a group of people willing to listen.

Maybe more importantly during a time like ours, food inspires. Each evening as I lay out my dinner plans, I visualize a victory over the new recipe. I mentally venture to the place where this recipe originated. I dream of going to there some day. On some days when I open the refrigerator and the quiet hum greets me with greens and reds and yellows and oranges, I am reminded to breathe. To create. To appreciate. Staring into the eye of an avocado, I imagine that I can create something beautiful today. Create something worthy of the precious time at the dinner table when we meet at the table and something magical happens: we turn off the the TV and we talk. Sometimes dinner conversation is about work. Sometimes its about current events. Sometimes its just about the food. But sometimes, when what’s before us is just right, the conversation is about dreams and hopes. Our senses are inspired and as we move through the meal, we suddenly feel invigorated and able to dream again.  For a brief time in the evening we aren’t too tired to imagine. When all else fails me, when the day has been lousy, I still have dinner to prepare and escape within.

Locavores. Omnivores. Vegetarians. Chefs. Cooks. Food is the single thing we all share. The experience of eating brings us together. We’re all artists, or aficionados.  Food matters because more than ever before, it allows us to reconnect with our humanity.

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About Tara DeWitt Coomans

An aspiring cook and an accomplished eater, Tara is inspired by the world around her and the food on her plate. "When you can't jump on a plane and take a vacation to an exotic destination, chances are you can whip up a dish or go to a restaurant that will take you there." says Tara. She often eats out at a restaurant after trying to accomplish a given dish at home. None the less, she enjoys food and what it says about the human experience. Tara is a full-time freelance writer and blogger. She specializes in writing about food, cooking and travel. You can find her in the kitchen, on the plane or at her computer.