How Does Food Connect Us?
We don’t always have share commonalities with others around the world when it comes to traditions or culture. However, food is an exception. Not only do we consume food for nutrition but also to create community, relationships, family, and celebration. Sharing a meal is one of the most basic forms of connection we have. Ask anyone about an important tradition or ceremony in their culture and it most likely includes some type of food or drink. Food provides a cultural foundation for all cultures, it allows families to pass down traditions from one generation to the next. ‘What we select to eat, how we prepare it, serve it, and even how we eat it are all factors profoundly touched by our individual cultural inheritance’ (1). The cultural traditions around food and preparation of food are deeply rooted in our sense of identity. Some of my fondest memories as a child were those that I spent in the kitchen cooking. I remember helping my Grandma, asking her questions about what we were making, what ingredients we were using, and following her step by step process.
As I got older it became much less about the food that we were making and instead it was more around the connection that we created. The rituals that we established enhanced our relationship and provided me with a sense of comfort knowing that a part of her would always be with me. ‘Rituals have the ability to create a space – within our everyday lives – that is sacred and meaningful. When foods are incorporated into a ritual, they have the potential to be the significant point that changes the air of a space from ordinary to extraordinary’ (2). Traditions such as cooking can often be seen as a cultural healing practice. After all, sharing something so personal and special can create a safe space for those involved. One great example of this can be seen in the movie Ratatouille from Disney/Pixar where Remy the rat creates a special dish for the food critic. At first bite, the food critic is taken back to his childhood where his mother would cook his favorite meal when he was upset or sad. This helps the food critic change his perspective and allows him to heal some of the pain he experienced in his adulthood. I can definitely relate to the food’s critic’s experience. Food has taught me about my family, our values, traditions, and strengthened relationships. As I got older I realized how important these traditions have been and I continue to cook and share meals with friends as a way of connecting and creating memories. Even for those of us with other types of diets such as vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian (seafood), there is an element of creating and ritualistic component to the way we consume food. Many of us have gone on from our own culture to create new connections through our consumption of food. So whether you are a vegan or meat eater and whether you use old recipes or create new ones, there is no doubt that food will continue to provide the means to create bonds, traditions, and memories for you.