In the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of interactions with ordering food for large groups of people. As a part of my job, I help with logistics planning for conferences, and I’m planning a wedding at the moment. It seems so straightforward to order food for 40-50 people and make everybody happy.
But it’s not. Both our food and the way we interact with our food are constantly changing. To satisfy 50 people, I had to search all over the city for places that would serve vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options because a fairly good number of participants had these dietary concerns – more than I have seen in a long time. During one conversation with a friend about this planning, she mentioned that a friend of hers didn’t eat ‘American wheat’ because she believed that the amount of chemicals and pesticides used to produce wheat in the United States changed the wheat itself. Not only are our food sources changing, but the way we think about our food is as well.
It might be my small town upbringing, but ten years ago I don’t think you would see that many people becoming vegetarian or avoiding certain foods because of the way that food was produced. I know there were a lot of people who made those choices, but compared to today I think it was less. It’s almost as if to do any kind of environmental work, it’s assumed that you have made the political choice to eat local or to not eat meat. I keep my omnivore status quiet in those circles because it almost makes me ashamed to admit that I feel that my body needs meat. More and more, people are thinking about where their food comes from, and trying to make informed, conscientious decisions that take into account health, politics, and social justice. The conversation we have about food is changing.
So how do we even begin to talk about food, let alone talk about redefining it? So much has already been said, so many people have already been overwhelmed by the amount of material out there that it’s easier to just ignore it. My intent with this series isn’t to attempt to redefine food as vegetarian only or that eating only from your local farmer’s market is the best way to eat. It is to try to find new ways of looking at this conversation and to try to redefine the way that we talk about food. Food is so much more than what we eat – it’s political, it’s community, it’s social justice. Eat what you want, but don’t eat just to feed your body. Indulge the rest of food’s implications and make it more than ‘just food.’ Make it an ever-evolving experience.