“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.” –Michael Pollan
I am often asked what it is about food that I love so much. “What is there not to love?” I say. Then I immediately start to think of the food itself. I think of the thrill of tasting pungent black truffles for the first time or when I made my first batch of preserved lemons, anticipating their sour, salty and floral flavor permeating my food as it did while in Morocco. I think of the many times I’ve had a bite and then closed my eyes in order to shut out all other senses so I could simply taste.
When someone has a few minutes for me to get philosophical, I’ll tell them that food doesn’t need to be enjoyable, but the fact that it is tells me that we are loved. It’s because of this that I desire to share food with others. If those I feed can experience a bit of the joy and provision I feel when eating, then I’m satisfied.
As the new year came and brought with it introspection and goals, I set out to create more shared memories around food. Besides my family, there are not many others who have sat at our table. I want to change that. It is so easy for me to make excuses. “My home is too small. What would I make? I’m too tired. The kids are too crazy.” But the reality is, it’s not about any of that. In fact, it’s not even really about the food.
Last night, some friends and I fed a simple meal of chili, salad, cornbread and cookies to a group of women and their children who came to the shelter for a warm meal and a place to sleep. We talked briefly of the fragrant chili, warm from cayenne and cumin, and the scallion flecked cornbread. And then we listened to them tell us of what brought them to this place, about how much they love their children and, with tears in their eyes, how hard things have been. We listened and we ate. This happened around the table, in the presence of food, as does much of life.
While I’m inspired by new flavors, intricate recipes and ingredients from around the world, it is the life that happens around the food that sustains my desire to keep cooking and feeding.
by Ashley Rodriguez