The Sunday Edition
I think you already touched on this in your message—but I think food hits on all of the love languages. Cooking together can be quality time. The act of cooking and eating is very tactile for a lot of people, which accesses physical touch. Cooking for others is an act of service—and can be a gift. And hearing people tell you something you made was good is words of affirmation. Food culture hits most peoples’ love buttons, regardless of what they are.
I do think if we were able to move away from food/drink based activities as a culture, we may also be healthier. So many addictions are triggered for people at food/drink based gatherings, beyond just alcohol. Food for thought!
That sounds rough to have so many food allergies! I have had some chronic pain/GI stuff over the past several years and have gone gluten free, and just that is hard enough since my favorite foods are delicious pastries and really good bread, etc. The ridiculous price of GF alternatives. Anyhoo, I love the tastes and textures and sensations of eating food. I don't so much enjoy cooking right now and for the holidays I have taken to ordering in a prepared meal. I do not miss all the fuss of preparing food and cleaning up after (and most of my family is gone now, so there's that too). Maybe some day I will feel different but for right now, I'm letting other people (strangers!!) cook for me on holidays.
I have a few siblings with food allergies and intolerances, and this message sheds some doleful light on how they might feel at our big, food-based family gatherings… I think part of the draw of communal consuming is rooted in the experience of “compersion” or being happy for someone else’s experience of pleasure. when I looked around at all the content faces happily munching on food I labored for days to make this Thanksgiving, their enjoyment became my own enjoyment. my daughter made the mashed potatoes this year, and every time someone commended her efforts, I could practically feel the beaming gold light glowing behind her breastbone :) in light of what you shared about your relationship with food, Tyler, I agree it would benefit us all to find ways to connect and exchange joy with one another that has nothing to do with consuming foodstuff <3
ps I really love your expression in the picture accompanying this essay. what on earth is sandwiched between those buns?
Love your intros and the “weird crap” that your brain thinks of.
In your own words, and as others have mentioned in their comments, the making and sharing of food is a way of showing “how we care for one another.” My mother-in-law passed away at the beginning of November. At her celebration of life, her grandchildren spoke of the special meals and desserts she would make just for them when they would come to visit. Many of these recipes were ones that her mother had made. Food provides a link to these beloved people and to a distant Eastern European culture. While none of us can make cabbage rolls quite like Baba, it is now a way that we will remember her. When we have family over, we always make sure there is food for the vegans and vegetarians and those with food allergies so that there is something for everyone on the table. My house comes alive when my sons and their girlfriends are all here for a meal, and I always try to prepare one of their favourites. Beyond the food, it is the conversations and laughter we share that we enjoy the most.
One thing that does bother me about most holiday meals is the gluttony that usually occurs.
I think it's a lot of little things combined to answer your question, what is is about the food and eating itself that means something to me. First, is that it is about a shared moment in time to join together for a meal. All you need to do is show up for in order to be included in the festivities. Time is the one thing that doesn't require you to be a good cook either! We are blessed that we are able to show up with others on the exact day as sometimes work, sickness, or no longer being on planet earth removes that privilege. Second, people getting together to contribute a famous or even standard recipe. A recipe that may have been made with care and love or sometimes panic and haste so to be shared with family and friends. The food tastes great in the moment, but I think that's why holiday leftovers never really taste as good, because you don't get the swirling energy around all that food- the hugs, the life updates, the stories, and the love that can't be promised in the future. I think the real feeding that is going on is for my soul. I am able to be surrounded by other humans with a common connection that are able to energize me, challenge me (sometimes family fights happen, c'est la vie!), and celebrate me that we all exist. Existing together for one more year!
I think sharing good food is sharing pleasure. However, as the only vegan at many family gatherings, I agree completely that not being able to share the food does mean you don’t get to share the pleasure. I love sharing good food with friends and loved ones, but I also love spending time with them just walking or watching our kids play, without feeling like we need to add a meal to the activity.
Eating alone gives me little pleasure. It is in the sharing of food, the conversations while eating that make me slow down instead of shovelling the food in to just get it over with, that the pleasure of food lies, for me, anyways.
I am curious as to what are the foods you can eat, Tyler? And I am sorry that for you, food does not equate to pleasure.
PS. Yes, you are weird. Please don’t ever change!
I'm a huge foodie. The obvious answer...taste!!! There are so many wonderful flavors and infinite ways you can combine them. Experiencing the actual taste sensations and savoring the flavors of food is so enjoyable. It's also a huge comfort, especially when it's a favorite or familiar food. I also have some dietary restrictions and intolerances...but those have actually led me to finding even more foods and recipes that are amazing! I've found that when you have to be more creative to cater to your dietary needs, a whole new world opens up.
Food has always been a huge community experience for me all my life. I grew up with parents that both loved to cook and made family dinner every night a priority. There was always such eagerness surrounding what mom and dad were cooking, whether it be a favorite or a new recipe. And we'd all talk around the dinner table, share about our lives. It is a very uncommon thing now, but I will always be grateful to my parents for instilling this ritual in me.
This is a late response, and it will be scattered because I have so many thoughts and feelings on this topic but I'm also running on too little sleep and am semi rushing because I'm on my way to bed after this!
First of all, my heart aches for you, Tyler, that you do not experience joy with food. Do you think it would change if you found new recipes that took into account all of your restrictions, or do you think your restrictions don't matter too much and that you just don't love food in that kind of way? Oh man, food must be the one hardship of being a world traveler, such as yourself! I'm sorry that food makes you less excited about gatherings -- if I am hosting people with food restrictions, I always accommodate them because I want people to feel seen, valued, and cared for when they are in my home.
Also, if a nutrition pill would bring you more joy in life (because you wouldn't have to struggle with food) then I hope and pray that science can create that for you. I, on the other hand, would be devastated to take a pill instead of eating!
I am a foodie, I LOVE food. I will do my best to give some reasons as to why (and I agree with all the other comments in this thread as well!)
Sharing a meal together is a ritual to me; there is something holy about it. I feel like it is something that can connect us, beyond borders, cultures, beliefs, and languages. I feel like we could bond with people we have never met before and could not talk to, simply by sharing food.
Making someone food says; in a hectic world with not-enough-time for anything, I care about you -- it is worth it to take the time out of my day to prepare something for you. Cooking with love -- it's cliche but it is real. It makes a tangible (taste-able?? haha) difference. I feel like you can learn so much about someone through what they cook for you.
Cooking recipes from my mom, that came from her mom, that can from HER mom, etc. is to perform the act of magic. These women were witches and their food was healing -- I feel their energy surge through my fingers as I prepare food the way they did. I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner this year and when I was making the stuffing the way these women have, I began to cry. I never met my great grandmother but I could feel her at my side. Food transcends generations. Food connects me to my heritage. Food reminds me of the power of women, of the mothers, of the healers.
I love that there is seemingly infinite flavours that can be created by mixing different ingredients! This scene from Ratatouille is so relatable, for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLXYILcRoPQ
When I travel, food is almost always a part of my favourite experiences (if not the full experience). I feel like I cannot immerse myself into someone else's culture in the way that I desire, until I can eat their food.
I think sharing a group meal unlocks a part of our primitive brain that boosts serotonin or dopamine levels. I think our brains say "okay, life is scary and hard and tough and stressful but when we sit down to eat together, it means that we are safe, we can rest, we can breathe, we can talk and share and laugh. We are nourishing ourselves, and we can be happy in this moment." Plus I think "hangry" is a real thing, so people tend to be more jovial with a full tummy.
Food is art; eating a dish made by a chef (or a foodie who looooves to cook) is an experience, not just a meal, and I feel honoured to have their gift shared with me -- to enjoy the fruits of their labour, to taste their creativity and passion.
Eating family meals does wonders for kids; there have been studies done that say that when families can eat together for a minimum of three times a week, then kids are less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy food, less likely to be picky eaters, perform better academically, partake in less risky behaviours, have better relationships with their parents and siblings, have fewer emotional and behavioural problems, have greater emotional well-being, are more trusting, more helpful towards others, and have a higher life satisfaction. Of course, life is so busy and we can't always make this happen but when we can, it has huge benefits!
However, I do agree with you that our society would benefit from having more group meetups/visits that revolve around something other than food and drink, to diversify what we bond over and to accommodate people like you, who don't love food or can't eat most foods. I would partake in these kinds of things.... maybe tea swaps -- everyone brings their favourite tea, steeps it, and shares with each other. I also am a fan of clothing swaps. Games can be a great way to get people connecting in a group setting (depending on the group!!) Maybe like a "creativity hour" where people get together and just make art..... They can make their art solo, or collaborate; they can wear headphones and get some down time or they can chat whilst making something. Then at the end, everyone shares what they made, or the progress they made on a larger project. Then it could be a semi-regular occurance where everyone can be each other's art accountabilibuddies -- because I know that I could use one (I never make enough time for my art on my own.... a.k.a. almost never make time for it.)