Why Food?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chelsey Simpson, Community, Family, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Locavore, Volunteering | Posted on 24-11-2008


by Chelsey Simpson

With Thanksgiving this week and the Oklahoma Food Cooperative’s delivery day last Thursday, I’ve found myself contemplating a very simple question: Why food? Of all the things in the world to care about, when and why did food become so interesting to me?

I asked myself this question on Thursday as I left the Food Co-op’s Edmond pick-up site after four hours of frenzied volunteering. Even though I completely understand when other volunteers burn out or have more pressing obligations, it would never occur to me to quit or leave early. Why is that?

Or consider the fact that I was really excited about my plans last weekend, which included learning to render lard with my friend and fellow Fresh Greens blogger, Tricia. I’m in my mid-twenties—why I am excited about lard on a Saturday night?

And while we’re at it, why is making a meal plan my favorite Sunday chore? Why am I considering learning to butcher and dress a chicken when I can’t bring myself to kill a spider without asking its forgiveness? Why do I get such giddy satisfaction when I realize that everything on my dinner plate is local?

I wasn’t always this way. I used to buy big bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the big box store just like everyone else. But at the same time, my current obsessions didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. I’m still doing some self-analyzing and trying to get to the bottom of the issue, but these are my best guesses at “why”:

1. I don’t care about food; I care about people.

I have that “Longhouse Gene,” remember? I really like the community aspect of food. I enjoy speaking to people about the Oklahoma Food Co-op through my job as outreach manager, and I love the chaos and camaraderie of delivery day. People are the reason I volunteer time and again. Besides the people I see, there are the people I don’t see, the ones who are able to make more money off their family farm because I am their occasional advocate and food distributor.

On a larger scale, I like food because it’s a universal connector. People come together for food; the kitchen is the hub of every happy household. Even when I am alone, I can conjure comfort with my mother’s corn bread recipe. And because I buy locally, my cupboards are filled, not with eggs and flour, but with the names and faces of people I know, people I think of when I use their products. My husband even asked if we could send a Christmas card to the makers of his favorite product, peanut butter, because he loves it so much, and he wants them to know. That never happened when I still bought Jif.

2. Food is impossible to ignore.

You can blow off the rainforest, the dolphins and even starving children in Africa. You can ignore calls to recycle, use public transportation or spay and neuter your pets. But you have to put at least a little bit of thought into food every day, or else you will die. Not only does the elemental nature of food attract me, it forms the basis for a very accessible obsession. Anyone with a mouth can form valid opinions about food, and if one meal isn’t so great, another opportunity will come along in four or five hours.

3. I have a history with food.

I might have started my adult life buying from a big box store, but there are plenty of things in my childhood that pointed towards conversion. First of all, I grew up on a farm. We didn’t grow anything organic or sell at any farmer’s markets, but I knew where my food came from and fiercely believed in preserving the small-farm way of life. I also had a mother who cooked from scratch and occasionally had a garden. Sometimes we canned things. I’m afraid that if I don’t learn these skills, they will be lost to future generations.

4. Food is fun.

I think my generation of sustainable foodies is sometimes faced with the fun but daunting task of reinventing the wheel. We don’t have to create the process of pasta-making for example, but because most of us didn’t grow up watching our grandmothers roll out sheets of dough by hand, we have to teach ourselves. Discoveries like that can lead to very satisfying moments of “look what I made!” Three-generations ago, making butter was a chore, but for me it is a novelty, a fun craft I really want to try. A day might come when we need to know these things, but for now we can just play.

5. “Food, well … yum!”

Enough said.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments (4)

I love what you have to say. This list is from “Yes!Magazine” (which is a terrific thing in and of itself) and I have been waiting for an opportunity to interject this into a conversation since I read it today. It fits with your thoughts and the full explanation in the magazine for each item has even broader applications.
10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy
1. Savor Everyday Moments
Participants who took time to savor ordinary events [such as eating] that they normally hurried though or to think back on pleasant moments showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.
2. Avoid comparisons
Instead of comparing ourselves to others, focusing on our own personal achievement leads to greater satisfaction.
3. Put Money Low on the List
The more we seek satisfaction in material goods, the less we find them there. The satisfaction has a short half-life.
4. Have Meaningful Goals
Whether learning a new craft, or raising moral children, ["making a meal plan my favorite Sunday chore"] are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning.
5. Take Initiative at Work
When we express creativity, help others, suggest improvements, or do additional tasks on the job, we make our work more rewarding and feel more in control.
6. Make Friends, Treasure Family
We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones” that involve understanding and caring. ["I like food because it’s a universal connector."]
7. Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
It sounds simple, buy it works. Happy people see possibilities, opportunities and success. Even if you weren’t born looking at the glass as half-full, with practice, a positive outlook can become a habit. ["I’m afraid that if I don’t learn these skills, they will be lost to future generations."]
8. Say Thank You Like You mean It
People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals. ["My husband even asked if we could send a Christmas card to the makers of his favorite product, peanut butter, because he loves it so much, and he wants them to know."]
9. Get Out and Exercise
Exercise may be just as effective as drugs in treating depression, without all the side effects and expense. Regular exercise offers a sense of accomplishment and opportunity for social interaction, releases feel-good endorphins, and boosts self-esteem. [Okay, is this just implied...]
10. Give it Away, Give It Away Now!
Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness. Those who spend money on others reported much greater happiness than those who spend it on themselves. [Happy Thanksgiving!]

Deming – I think that’s a great post all on its own!

I agree with and can attest to all ten points, perhaps especially number eight. I suspect gratitude is the root of all optimism.

From someone who shares your discomfort with killing things (I often move the spiders I’m ordered to kill into the backyard.) killing a chicken is less traumatic for me than squashing a bug. The difference, in my head anyway, is that the former is a meaningful act, whereas the other is not so. My dear friend, the Madfarmer, whose farm is where I experienced this particular part of my food economy, always whispers, “Peace friend,” as he kills them. Some people no doubt would find such a gesture empty or even ironic, but to me, it suggested all the truth of our being a part of the world. One creature dies so another can live. It isn’t always fair, clean, or pleasant, but on that day, it was dignified.