Eating as Organizing
Unofficially committed to the joy of flavor and a venerator of raw qualities, I have grown to think about more than just keeping up to date with trendy ingredients, laying claim to all things edible, and restauranting. With much time spent zooming to the new hot spots, scouring blogs and local newspapers to find the best growers and hole-in-the-walls, I have encountered a new gastronomic delight, that being the use food as a venue for analysis of human interaction and well-being.
I like to engage people with more than just good food, I like them to realize the breadth of flavors, that the vocabulary paired with the description of say, a significant slice of pizza, is integral to the experience of eating the pizza; that the facial expressions, hand motions, and abdominal gyrations that follow the first bite of a grilled radicchio are all a part of the interpretation of flavor.
To this end, it is important for us to contemplate what we eat, and why. Do tastes follow demographics? Are trends exemplary of national cravings? Whatever the answer may be, the key lies within the ignition of this very discussion-vocal, intellectual, imaginative, and social engagement around something everybody has in common: eating. Social boundaries are broken by discussions around food when excitement about commonalities in taste lead to deeper forays on difference, yielding cultural translation and a sense of understanding.
Conversations about food never end. Eating and socializing are natural forms of art; when paired, they can create a most wholesome, excited, buzzed, and engaged community. If we want people to truly dedicate their mind to place, shared environment, and sustainability, we have to get them to a state where they can be enthused, experience the ideal of community and eating, meddle over the ideas, and comprehend importance. Local markets, community kitchens, and hands on educational experience are getting us steps closer to that place.
Already established culinary beacons, like the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco's Mission District, have opened auxiliary spaces where they hold events to engage their community with food (www.18reasons.org); non-profit organization Sparkseed funds ventures aimed at college aged students who, in some cases, seek to connect their campus with the community that surrounds through projects aimed at sustainable and local economies. Such innovative initiatives, along with many others, have great promise to continue to reach out, to increase community potential to catalyze social change, and to renew the value of the human endowment by building community around food, what we eat, and why.