Food is one of our basic needs. To survive we need to eat. As a species we evolved once we managed to diversify our meals and the sources of our calories’ intake. (Dear vegetarians and vegans I do respect all the personal choices out there, but please remember that meat and animal fats did play a huge role in our evolution, says an animal lover. Closing the parenthesis). Proper nutrition is what sustain us through this existence. It is the fuel we need to keep going. Setting aside the essential necessity for nourishment in every living organism, food has a social role.
Going through the holidays season I thought it would be appropriate to share some words and thoughts about food.
I am Romanian and the traditional Christmas celebration cannot take place without impressive quantities of food and without an abundance of dishes on the table. Disregarding the eating part, the preparation of the Christmas meals, as I remember from my childhood, was a get-together activity. It was a reunion. And I like to believe it still is. (I would consider this year an exception due to the well-known-not-wanted-virus). Why a reunion? Families and friends were getting together. The menu was not an issue. (Almost) every year the same. And every year delicious (meat, sarmale, sausages. If you are curious about the traditional Romanian Christmas menu, I added some links at the end of the post). The attribution of the tasks was essential for the success of the whole operation.The responsibilities were fair divided: (1) those responsible for the baking (cozonac), (2) those in charge of the charcuterie (this is a fancy word for a Romanian, simpler put – it was about sausages and the smoked meat/bacon), and (3) the one preparing the sour soup (important task highly appreciated by those recovering from a hangover). A feast and a great teamwork. The general get-together – for the cooking and for the eating – was accompanied by laughter, stories, quarrels linked to the spices that might / or might have not flavoured the food, and all translated into a wonderful way of bonding, creating, and sharing memories.
This going down the memory lane was my way of saying that food occupies a central place in any society, plays an important cultural role and is a way of showing affection. I am fortunate to be part of a mix family. With my Italian relatives, the above get-together representation, repeats. Only the menu differs. I will not describe a traditional Italian menu, I will only stress that Italian cuisine is far more then pizza and pasta (I do support pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Italian food is a sacred way of life. I know that every time I will go to visit my family, artichokes will be on the menu. I love the Italian way of preparing artichokes. My family knows this and will do everything to make sure that artichokes will miraculously appear on the table. I will not question. I will just enjoy. Every single time. I know is their way of letting me know they care.
All the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, brothers, all the friends, all those playing with ingredients on a kitchen counter, will put all their love into the dishes they are preparing for their close ones. Cooking for others is a way of showing the affection.
If you want to better understand a culture, just go to a market. A traditional one. Walk around the stalls. Let the flavours tell the stories. Taste as many dishes as possible. Choose from the ones you never heard of. Buy from the old lady preparing a typical dish. Inhale the culture. Taste the life. Let the senses be your guides. There is so much authenticity in the traditional markets. And if you are lucky enough you will be a guest in someone’s home. And when to opportunity arises, do not miss it. There is nothing more welcoming and heart-warming than sharing a meal with another person.
Right now, many people are struggling. If you are reading this, I will assume you are among the fortunate ones. We all have a favourite dish and a story that comes with it. In the light of the holidays, I will encourage you to share – the story and the meal (social distancing implied).
Take care and stay healthy.
Lots of love,
Sharing Simple Words