We in the United States have become obsessed with many issues regarding food. We are concerned about food justice and accessibility to healthy food, many issues of food labeling, the ability to make choices such as access to raw milk, school lunches, and the complex issues of the Farm Bill. But many of these issues are limited to policies and thinking of a closed system. That is, we think about the U.S. and its laws and boundaries without looking at the rest of the world.
During the Fall 2012 semester at Chesapeake College in Maryland, Professor Eleanor Welsh asked her students to reflect on and recall some of their strongest food memories. Then she asked them to take it a bit further with a journal assignment to think about their food heritage and to consider what dishes and spices taste and smell like their respective childhoods.
Humans eat food to survive. Most, if they’re fortunate, do it multiple times each day. And if we go very long without doing it, our bodies have limitless creative ways of making their displeasure known. But we also eat for pleasure—pleasure derived from taste and texture, from culture and tradition, and, for some, from the very process of creating food in the first place. That creation involves three distinctly different types of individuals. Best known are those who combine raw ingredients in creative ways—sometimes exciting, sometimes banal. These are the chefs who craft memorable dishes, the artisans who bake fine bread and pastry, the vintners who magically turn the humble grape into wine, and the factories that turn out the infinitude of products that occupy our grocery store shelves. Then there are the less celebrated among us, the farmers and ranchers who grow crops and raise animals, creating the raw materials with which the chefs and artisans perform their magic, and with which corporations create products that are…well, less magical but arguably far more important to the daily lives of most ordinary people.