In Defense of Food by Steph F.

15 05 2008

According to author Michael Pollan, Americans have always had a problem taking pleasure in eating. “The sheer abundance of food in America has fostered a culture of careless, perfunctory eating.” The need to eat as a matter of simply sustaining ourselves has become disembodied from the pleasurable, sensual or aesthetic enjoyment of food. “How a people eats”, says Pollan, “is one of the most powerful ways they have to express and preserve their cultural identity”. Throughout history gathering and preparing food has been the driving force of man’s daily life. Here in America during the last half century there has been a radical shift away from the traditional foods and traditional food preparation. Today our store shelves are lined with foodlike substitutes – commercially processed and engineered foods that bear little resemblance to any foods that would be recognizable by our great-grandparents’ generation. Meals are mostly consumed with quantity, convenience and speed as the objectives, without any attachment or relationship to the meal itself. In so doing, we have distanced ourselves from the considerations of both the quality of the food we consume and its impact on our health (as evidenced by the alarming increase in dietary related diseases in this country). As budding culinary professionals, we have a duty to reclaim the ritual of the meal – to protest against the fast food culture and its values and foster a renewed appreciation for the pleasures of a more deliberate culture of eating. We have a duty to rebuild the relationships between the farmers who grow our food and the consumers for whom we prepare it. We have a duty to translate the knowledge of all that is involved in bringing food from the ground to the table. Our carelessness about eating is owed to the ease with which our society allows us to forget what is at stake. To cook a meal deliberately and with passion for the ingredients and the process allows us to take a fundamental part in preserving our culture and celebrating our gratitude for the abundance and diversity of food available to us. To quote from Wendell Berry: “Eating with the fullest pleasure…is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.” As culinary professionals we must never forget that we are not just merely cooking a meal, we are nurturing the most intrinsic human relationship – that between us and the earth itself.

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