I would imagine that most of us subscribe to the idea that politics and religion are off-limits for dinnertime discussion. Increasingly, it seems that another topic may need to be added to that list. Food. These days, issues related to what we eat (meat, dairy, gluten), its origins (local, sustainable, seasonal), and the way in which it is produced (organic, ethical, fair-trade) have the ability to raise tensions in a matter of seconds. It often seems that we might be better off bringing up our favored candidate in the next election than our opinion on the importance of buying fair-trade rice.
The truth is that it shouldn’t be all that surprising that many of us spend so much time thinking about the philosophy of eating that is “right” for us. Food, of course, is what sustains us. It’s something we must think about a good three times a day. (Maybe five times a day in Thailand…here, snacking is an art form.)
In many instances, food too, is what brings us together. It is the most dependable opportunity we have to sit together and talk without distraction. As we become increasingly aware of the implications of what we eat on our health, the environment, the economy, and therefore spend more of our time thinking about how we make decisions about food, it should not come as a surprise that we become personally invested in our choices. Unfortunately, does this mean that it will become a topic too sensitive to discuss over a shared meal?
My good friend Kristine just wrote a great post about an even more touchy element of food “politics” in her blog Vegetarian in Pink. Having been a vegetarian for many years, the reality of becoming a first time mom and wanting to expose her daughter all types of food has made her re-evaluate. I increasingly have friends who talk about their young children who have decided not to eat meat, and I admire these moms I know who support their kiddos in finding their own path when it comes to food. All the while, I would imagine, still struggling with the reality of needing to teach their children how to be healthy and eat foods that will keep them well.
Heck, I find it hard enough to make decisions about the things I eat, and I’m only responsible for me.
Like politics and religion, there is no universally “right” way when it comes to deciding what we eat. Even Frank and I have some different philosophies about food. (Fortunately for us, we agree on this topic much more than we disagree.) It is my sincere hope that as food politics are more “in our face” and organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free options continue to become less trendy and more commonplace, we are able to broach our differences in opinion with more open-mindedness and less derision.
And as we become increasingly aware of the implications of what we eat, on our health, the environment, the economy, my greatest hope is that we retain the simple joy that comes with enjoying, and sharing, a meal. And even as the issues that surround our food continue to grow and become increasingly personal, I hope that we never lose the ability to discuss food around the dinner table.
After all, there are few things I enjoy more than talking about food.
I will willingly avoid religion and politics…but discussing how that fried chicken got its perfectly crisp skin? That’s something I’m not sure I can do without.