Originally posted at Kitchen Dancing, on July 8, 2007. View the original post here.
When Erica and I began talking about doing some sort of joint writing project food was a topic that surfaced fairly early. As with most things there are probably innumerable reasons why we chose food but a few key reasons pop into my mind.
For the past three years we have been members of a community supported agriculture farm (CSA) in Amherst, Massachusetts. The experience of being a member of this farm has radically reshaped our relationship to our food and has consistently pushed our thinking about food issues. It has been a wonderful experience which has made us so much more aware of what we eat and where our food comes from. At the same time, and in part due to our experiences on the farm, Erica and I have embarked on a number of other food related adventures. We have begun to do biweekly potlucks to build community and connect friends from different parts of our lives. I have been teaching a food unit for the past two semester in my writing classes which has encouraged college students to use writing to take a critical look at the personal and cultural aspects of food in their lives. Finally, in trying to make the most out of the food we get at the farm, we have begun canning and preserving food. Almost without realizing it, food has taken on an increasingly central role in the way Erica and I think about our lives, our community, and the broader world around us. I want to talk a bit more about each of these below.
Adventures in Food
Erica and I have always been crafty, and Erica has always loved to cook. Over the last three years these two predilections collided in the kitchen as we began trying to make as much of our own food as possible, avoiding the processed foods of the grocery isle whenever possible. Focusing on the staples, the things we eat all the time, we began to teach ourselves how to bake bread and make granola, muesli and yogurt. We have begun to can our own salsa, make our own jam, and pickle beets, beans, and garlic. A friend has also promised to teach me how to make cheese. I have begun learning how to brew beer, and hope eventually to make wine and cider as well. As we have embarked on these various food adventures we have been surprised how our little hobbies have caught the attention of our friends and families. While we recognized and often delighted in the fact that we were trying to revive or maintain what are considered by many to be “lost arts,” we had no idea how it would capture others imaginations. People constantly remark about our kitchen adventures and most people find something in what we are doing that they want to try themselves. We are often passing on recipes or learned wisdom, tips and tricks from stumbling through ourselves. We hope to use this blog, in part, to continuing sharing what we are doing and helping others try some of these things on their own.
The other reason I wanted to begin this blog was because I am increasingly becoming aware of the ways in which food can serve as an entry point for all kinds of people to consider and confront the diverse issues facing our society today. Food is a way in to every issue I care about, be it social justice, community, the environment, politics, media reform, etc… Food touches on every one of these issues, and I enjoy looking at these diverse topics through the lens of food. However, I have also found that for many people, food is a way of making these abstract social issues real. More and more people are beginning to think about these issues through their personal relationship to what they eat. I have seen this with so many of my students who have never given much thought to farm workers’ rights, industrial agricultural, soup kitchens, or pesticides, but when I ask them to look critically at their relationship to food, these are the kinds of issues that arise. Food is at once absolutely personal and at the same time utterly cultural. When we eat we literally bring the world inside ourselves and make it part of us. I hope that this blog can serve as a hub, reaching out from the issue of food to a number of other issues and ideas that call for our attention and care today.
How is a Blog Like Cooking?
Finally, I am excited to launch this blog because I am thrilled to be collaborating with Erica, and to be challenging our own ideas and assumptions about the role of food in our lives. I think we’ll approach this blog like we approach cooking together, a flurry of creative activity that looks much like dancing. Scott Russell Sanders, writing about cooking with his wife, has said, “Our kitchen is small; Ruth and I share that cramped space by moving in a kind of dance we have been practicing for years. When we bump one another, it is usually for the pleasure of bumping.” I hope you will join us, bumping along, in this kitchen dance.