Regardless of who we are, no matter what our station in life we are consumers of food. I know that this is an obvious statement. It’s also a fact that we rarely ponder.
Breathing air, drinking water, and consuming food are the basic necessities of our lives. From the day of our conception, we consume nourishment, even if we end up in a hospital room where one might be fed intravenously, some form of food is our fuel. So, naturally, food is a fascinating subject for nearly everyone.
My first corporate job was as a clerk in a supermarket. My supervisor was fond of mentioning that the grocery business is even more profitable than the undertaking business because there will always be return customers to grocery stores.
I enjoyed working in the grocery business and I remain thankful that supermarket provided necessary income to pay my way through college. The job became more rewarding when the store promoted me to produce manager and later, frozen foods manager. There were many times when I considered grocery store management as a career. Working intimately with food and encountering our customers on a day to day basis was often challenging yet quite satisfying.
The acquisition of and the cultivation of food has been a major driving force behind the history of civilization. Minor and major wars have been fought over the land needed for food production. When there have been droughts and famines, people have migrated en masse to new territories in search of food and places to grow and nurture it. These struggles continue today.
When food is not the source of struggle, it is often a product of ethnic and national identity. The various cuisines are reflections of traditional histories of empires, regions, tribes, families, and ultimately ourselves. We think of the various types of African cuisine, European cuisine, Asian cuisines, foods of the Australian area, and the cuisines of the Americas. Today, there are new cuisines arising because of the blending of global cultures.
It’s interesting to think about our appetites and food cravings. During the past several months it seems like I cannot get enough “Grape Nuts” breakfast cereal. This is an odd desire for me, because I’ve avoided it for years out of concern for dental health. The little nuggets are course and hard. Lately, though, I discovered that they are not dangerous. The slightly sweet crunchiness has won me over.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”–Hippocrates
It’s an ages old truism that good wholesome food promotes better health and a longer life. We are also discovering that many convenience foods and fast food items contribute to health problems that can decrease our lifespans. Many of us are troubled by having to choose between health and expediency. As nations become industrialized, convenience gains the upper hand.
On the other hand, many people have discovered the slow food movement. Great care and more time are spent selecting, preparing, and consuming meals. This is a very appealing idea. Not only does the eater become more mindful of the act of consuming food, but meals are opportunities for social bonding. Families and friends remain close when they adopt this lifestyle. Most of us get a glimpse of the lifestyle during holiday gatherings and special milestone celebrations.
Living in the Great Plains of North America, we are sometimes reminded that we live in the “breadbasket of the world”. Even though more nations are becoming self-sufficient, the Midwest is still a major food producing region. Midwesterners understand that agriculture is the foundation for our modern world. Without agriculture, there would be no churches, universities, banks, cities, states, or nations. Life would be vastly different if we all had to forage and hunt in order to stay alive.
Food is such an immense topic that thousands of books have been written about it. The cultivation and preparation of food have provided the livelihoods for millions of people throughout the years and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Shawnee chief Tecumseh. “When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”