We all have a unique relationship to food. We grow up being told to ‘eat our vegetables’ and that ice-cream can be bartered within our minds as a reward for something notable we’ve done. It’s as if we have two brains operating within our minds: one that says, “You went for a run today, you deserve that dessert!” and the other that says “You should pick the kale”. At what point though should we start looking at this internal conversation as a mechanism that we can break down to make better food choices for our bodies?
Kevin Callaghan, executive chef at Wanderlust Festival 2016 and owner of renowned Acme restaurant has loved food his entire life. It was obvious by the way he talked about it. He lived and breathed it. As a well-known chef and lover of food, his hilarious anecdotal narratives, as well as his socio-political and economic take on food was something worth listening to. It was clear that his thoughts surrounding food went so much deeper than what we pluck from the shelves at the grocery store. Rather, there is a deep history and powerful relationship that we all have to food that is certainly worth exploring.
Callaghan began the workshop by breaking down three things that dictate the foods we desire, including: DNA, community frameworks, and scarcity. As our DNA dates back generations and generations, it holds the memory of hunter/gather communities who, let’s be honest, didn’t really have access to Whole Foods. Instead, food was scarce and so they relied on high-density foods to carry their bodies through the metaphorical winters. This same DNA has us craving Doritos and bacon. Thanks ancestors.
Community frameworks also help to dictate the food choice we make. Think of every meal you’ve ever loved? More than likely, you weren’t eating it alone. Instead it was probably a big meal, around a big table, and it was probably prepared by your mother and grandmother. Food is the focal point of every major life event including but not limited to birthdays, weddings and the deaths of our loved ones. When we share food we share moments. When we prepare food, we transfer a piece of ourselves into every morsel. These moments live in a special place in our hearts. Through these dynamics we foster the connections we have to our tribe of friends, family, lovers and our greater community. Dining together invokes a sense of sharing, care and connection.
As time has passed our relationship to food has changed drastically from hunter/gatherers and farmers. Callaghan describes how the responsibility of food selection shifted from the community, to the family and then to women. Then, when women gained access to the workplace, the responsibility to select food fell upon the individual.
“Food is probably the deepest connection we have with one another. It is a shared desire for things that are delicious and nutritious, that nurture our muscles, our hearts, and our minds. It is both a necessity and a passion. Food and the intentional choices we make around food can be driven by desire, and not by the shackles of guilt associated with desire, pleasure, and what we ‘should’ and ‘should not’ eat.” says Callaghan.
“While we need to honour the way we love food in an ‘old way’, we also need to honour it in the ‘new way’.” Callaghan articulated. The fact is we have lost our connection to food through supply-chain and globalization. Yet, we can foster our relationship to food again when we build relationships with our food producers. We can fall in love with our food and we can reclaim that special connection we feel to it. We can do so by shopping at our local farmer’s markets, and by building relationships to the individuals who grow the seasonal crops we eat. ‘To be a farmer, you have to love what you do. “It’s hard work.” says Callaghan. Why not build a relationship and sense of community by putting food into your body that was produced with a whole-lotta love and care?
When it comes to how we choose our food, Callaghan mentioned that we can shift the language that we use in our own minds. Instead of using words such as ‘I should’ and ‘I shouldn’t’ when making food choices, he suggests that we use the power of truth. Ask yourself “What do I really want?”
Instead of saying “I was really good all week, I deserve some ice-cream.” One might say, ‘I want some damn ice-cream.’ and thank their ancestors for inheriting the desire to devour fat because their bodies needed it. Our bodies know what they need and it communicates these needs through our desires. It is a complex web of information being shared from our cells all the way to our brains. When we disrupt this process, we can miss out on some valuable nutrients that our bodies need.
In closing, Callaghan passionately declared how important it is that we actually love the food we eat. Loving something comes through building a relationship to it. Collard greens, beets, apples, carrots, all of these foods take time, hard work, and love to produce. When we take the time to build a relationship to the food we eat, we can really and truly tap into our desire nature to make choices that will foster more healthy relationships to our bodies, our community and the environment.