From a roast dinner, to a bowl of noodles, to falafel and on to re-fried beans, what does the food we buy, grow and eat say about us?
When we are living ~ Medieval London, Ming Dynasty China, 19thcentury America, 1970’s Britain or modern Australia with all it’s influences.
Where we are from ~ what our parents ate and recreated from their own families wherever they are from be it Wales, Italy or Poland.
- Our travels ~ Where we have lived, worked and holidayed ~ I’ve tried Chai and Mint tea at home, and they just don’t taste the same as they did when I was sitting on an overnight train, or watching the sunset over the Atlas mountains. But maybe that Pad Thai or Chilli Paneer you ate on your trip could be made at home. And eating grilled fish always reminds me of visiting the Mediterranean – you just can’t recreate the view and the atmosphere though!
- Our faith ~ Are you Jewish and don’t eat pork and shellfish, Muslim and abstain from beef, or Jain and do not eat anything grown underground like garlic or ginger, or a strict Methodist with no alcohol in or out of food?
- Our times ~The supermarkets and mass food production; TV and magazines and the internet – what is on trend and what isn’t. The search for the new and different; the upsurge in Veg boxes and Farmers markets.
- Our culture ~ British – I’m talking about classic Sunday roasts (or should that be chicken tikka?), or American southern cooking, or French Alps, think potatoes, cheese and hams/sausages. And then of course there is always the great Marmite debate!
- Our Politics – Organic and Faretrade movements; agri-businesses and multi nationals; or buying food that isn’t from a particular country and regime; or only buying food that is from your own country as it supports the local economy and cuts down on greenhouse emissions.
- Our background ~ Did your parents cook from fresh or was it a case of some oven ready chips?
- Our personal experiences ~ I’m talking about school dinners (for those in the UK and of a certain age just think Fried Spam Fritters) or your Granny’s overcooked soggy vegetables, my partner still can’t face baked fruit amongst a number of equally “appalling” dishes. On the positive side it could be your Auntie’s beautiful fruit pies with delicate flaky pastry. Or were you once sick from eating a certain dish and can never face it again?
- Our climate ~ Arid, at altitude, cold and snowy, hot and tropical, temperate? Where you live will affect what you eat in terms of what is traditionally grown and available but also what you need to survive. Can you grow rice locally or a coconut palm tree?
- Rural or Metropolitan or Seaside ~ Living in a large city means you can sample foods from any country or cuisine you want to. Or are you living in rural South America or a coastal village in Sri Lanka?
- Homegrown food~ Have you joined in, and rediscovered the fun and frustrations of growing your own food? Whether you have a few pots of herbs on your balcony or a ¼ acre small holding, or like me an allotment to substitute your weekly shop.
- Our finances ~ Are you a skint student, or part of a family of 6 on a budget or a single professional buying ready-meals short on time but rich in cash; or an empty nester, with some more time on your hands exploring cookery again? Organic food and buying from Farmers markets can be expensive and is out of reach for many.
- Vegetarian, vegan, meat eating, pescatarian ~ I could put this into many categories – culture, faith, politics, economics. But I think it sits on it’s own
- Our occupations ~ Are you a sports person, or a builder or an office worker, needing to consider carefully what you eat in relation to your living?
- Our Health ~ Are you allergic to wheat or dairy, or have high cholesterol, or are recovering from an illness or take a relaxed approach to what you eat?
- Nature vs Man ~ Can you safely eat the food grown in your country; a quandary that the Japanese are experiencing at the moment?
- Our Approach ~ are you a food adventurer or are you reluctant to try anything new, spicy or different? Would you eat a plate of frogs legs, fried insects from a street stall or a kanagroo steak burger?
- The time available ~ Are you in a mad rush and open a can of beans and pop some bread in the toaster or can you linger over the preparation and eating of a meal made from scratch?
- Playing ~ do you play with your food? Do you eat the crusts on your toast first? Or do you line things up to be eaten in an exact order? I know I used to make ski runs and mountains with mashed potato and gravy!
- Expressing ourselves ~ Food of love and giving and sharing, food can be creative or out a pure necessity.
Food is many things, as are we. So how do we see ourselves in our food? And what does the food you eat say about you?
I realise that some of the categories and examples can be applied to more than one, but I tried to separate them out by their main components, and realise they could be debated on until the metaphorical cows come home! And of course what have I missed out or forgotten? There’s bound to be more!