I don’t have to tell you that we live in a time of global discord. Political strife and too-full schedules, media-driven attention spans run by algorithms and red email notification numbers that follow us on vacation and into the shower. Health and wellness cues often become a new or extended to-do list that gets programmed into our calendars. And cooking? At this time of year, it ends up as a challenge to complete in January, or a new diet to hold ourselves to and either way comes with the pressure to make beautiful Instagram-worthy food.
Recently, I traveled to a wedding in Edinburgh. It took place at a small theater in Leith, and I was the only American in attendance. The bride is a close friend of mine I met while living in London for my postgraduate degree. As such, I only knew a handful of people--friends from our course, her family who I had stayed with, or met for drinks in London. I had the privilege of doing a reading for the ceremony, an excerpt from a speech by David Foster Wallace. This, in combination with my accent, meant I ended up meeting a whole lot of people I might not have otherwise.
What I found in meeting a wedding full of strangers, is that most often, conversation topics led to food. Sure, I work in food, but that wasn’t always the impetus. We spoke about who we are and where we come from in terms of our foods, comparing cuisines and travel experiences. “Oh, you're from California? I had the best taco of my life in LA,” or, “What will you do while in Edinburgh? You must have dinner at this place…” I think my favorite interactions were the exchanges about names for foods, bridging Scottish-English and Californian-English through elaborate descriptions when shared vocabulary failed us.
Eating is a unanimously human experience, it’s as much a part of our day as breathing and somehow has now become a pathway to a connection I never fully recognized before. Maybe we can credit this to those same day-controlling-algorithms of platforms like Instagram, that first provided a space for the everyday home cook to share food experiences, recipes, and stories more readily. Maybe the age-old saying “you are what you eat” can translate to more than the caloric repercussions of our eating. Maybe, instead, what we eat is really meant to divulge the essence of who we are, where we come from, and what brings us joy.
The idea of food as a bridge isn’t exactly an entirely new concept. Yet, it can easily be forgotten. How we eat, what we eat, where we travel to eat. Food as culture, food as memory, food as family identity, and of course, food as a means of introduction. An introduction that isn’t confined to a 140-character limit or a tagline on Linkedin or a registration for a political party. Eating for nourishment, cooking with a sense of curiosity, and for those we love. These can be acts of personal resistance, in a world that would convince you that what you really deserve is a lukewarm dinner alone, delivered in a non-sustainable container.
I believe in this idea. It’s tangible and achievable.
Let’s share more food, and more recipes, and a little more time in 2020. This isn’t a resolution, or something for you to add to your to-do list, or something we’ll ask you to ‘gram’ with a hashtag to prove, just something for consideration. Can food and cooking be a means of exploration of who we are, who we want to be, of other cultures? Can we approach what we eat, where we source from, and those different from us through this lens of taste and community?
While we’re at it, let’s stop making the idea of eating and cooking with these intentions as something that needs to become another task on your endless to-do list. Let’s make it unfussy, semi-homemade, and easier on our schedules.
Maybe you hate the crowds at the grocery store or just don’t have time for your weekly shop. Please don’t hesitate to use services like Amazon Fresh (that sync with SideChef!) to get to the good stuff - the cooking or eating - more quickly. Maybe you’ve been inspired by a foreign film you saw, or vacation you went on. We have recipes that span culture and cuisine that can introduce you to so many new flavors and techniques. Only have 30 minutes to spare on a Tuesday evening? See here for simple, easy, and quick recipe recommendations. Looking to host a dinner party? We’ve got you covered with advice to make easy.
When in doubt, my advice is to never underestimate the power of a simple salad, fresh baguette, and series of dips as a satisfying meal for two or twelve.