Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Food Theory, Part 1: My Community Food History

I've been thinking lately about food and community. I want to do a few posts around this. I doubt they'll be very photo-heavy, so I hope you'll stay with me. Today I'm thinking about my own history of sharing food (and drink) with my non-family communities, what it means to me, and what it could be.

I have some very clear memories of a particular church basement in Southern Minnesota, punctuated with watermelon pickles, 7-Up and sherbet punch, 7-layer salad and brownies.

I have other clear and memories of other basements, school basement cafeterias and sandwiches and juice boxes. That particular smell of old chocolate milk. That particular echo of kids and linoleum.

I've drunk generic kool-aid mixed with vodka in a recycling bin out of a $3 cup.

I've brought a hot dish of my own, or two, to various potlucks across the country.  I hid my roots, though, and called them casseroles. Shame on me. Viva la hot dish!

These days, I share food with my friends and their families at events we call Playdates or Mama Nights or, as in the days of yore, Potlucks. I bring meals to new mamas. I swap meals with friends to give my own family some variety. I preserve food for later in groups.

I'm lucky to have enough money to eat. I'm lucky to live among other people who also have enough money to eat. Shared food, though, is more than just food. It's a gesture of community. It's intimate. It binds us to each other.

Sometimes it's the excuse to get together in a world where slow food is marginalized. Sometimes we give food because we have nothing else to give, because we can't fix the rough spots in other people's lives, but we can feed them dinner.

And yes, sometimes it's an act of faith. I've eaten food that I did not find to be delicious. I've given food I did not find to be delicious. I've made food when I did not have time or money. I have flaked out and not made food when I should have.

Because, sometimes, food made by someone else is exactly what a person needs.

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