Everyone eats, food is central to identity and one's sense of community. Why is food central to culture, sharing, and community? How do food practices contribute to identity, meaning, and gender? What are others saying about food? When we question and explore the importance of food we dive into something essential and shared by each human.
“Food, Glorious Food” (Oliver Twist)
In Oliver Twist, children rousingly sing, “food, glorious food!” Food was exalted in all its goodness, a goodness which resonates with my lived experience of growing up in a rural area part of a family who planted an acre garden and raised cattle, hogs, and chickens. Food practices exemplified our family identity, work ethic, sociability and shared senses of responsibility and community. Everyone seemed to live and work as we did sharing a deep connection to and respect for the earth and her bounty. While a person’s lived experience may not be as mine, everyone eats and most can readily recall and talk about positive food experiences or gatherings where food played a central part such as family dinners, potlucks, recipes, favorite restaurants or religious traditions. Food is often a revered aspect of the human experience.
Yet, my idealized portrayal neglects the potential and realized impacts on human identity, culture, and ways of life related to foodway access due to food policies and practices and changing culture. If food is as Parasecoli (2008) noted a: “relevant marker of power, cultural capital, class, gender, ethical and religious identities” (p. 2), then, an exploration of food takes on significance and importance. I am interested and concerned about access to quality food and the preservation of food cultures. Food practices and how gender roles and expectations are communicated is fascinating. All my family members cook yet for some food production and cooking is 'women's work.' In my dissertation, all of the women interviewed talked about gardening, cooking, and canning as being a huge part of their day. I want to understand more about what happens around a shared meal, how does food contribute to a sense of community and belonging. And finally, I'm curious about the theological significance of food - why did Jesus' eat with people so frequently? Why is there a Lord's supper? What is vital about a Lord's table where all are welcome? These and more are topics I'm curious about relative to food.
Food, Glorious Food Lyrics. Retrieved from http://www.allmusicals.com/lyrics/oliver/foodgloriusfood.htm