Food-centric Culture--Part 1

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

This has been on my mind since yesterday, when I started chatting a bit in a thread on the message boards about celebrating life's happenings without making it all about food.

My thoughts may be a bit scattered and incomplete (as this is just starting to percolate) but here's what's come to mind.

My very best friend and I initially bonded because we were both Fat Kids. We had always been overweight and came from families with strong food cultures. Both of us had overweight parents. Both of us enjoyed a good meal. This is not, of course our only bond....she the bravest and most compassionate woman I know as a matter of a fact. But over the years, the fat kid thing has come up again and again in our friendship.

Unlike me, she is married and has children. A while back, she had started working out with a trainer pretty frequently and reporting her food consumption to him. The food piece was where they ran into issues. Not because she was overeating...on the contrary, she weighed and measured every bite and worked hard to make better choices.

But there were certain choices her family had made that the trainer didn't agree with...and as a strong, independent woman, she wouldn't allow him to talk down her choices.

"I'm not going to get obsessed about this!" she would say. "I remember making rice krispie treats with my mother...and cookies. And I want my girls to have those same memories with me!"

And I can't fault her wanting to build memories with her children. What mother doesn't? And she is an excellent mother.

Here's what I do question: how important is it that memories, life's little celebrations, be about food?

True, we have to eat. And there is no reason why special foods can't or shouldn't mark special occasions. But I don't believe that food needs to be at the center.

I mentioned that I have similar memories about my mother. And I do. I remember my mother grinding wheat to make bread for the family. She didn't have enough bread pans to do a really large batch, so she would do some of the bread in coffee cans.

And I remember going to the farm with my mother....getting fresh vegetables, picking berries or apples. I remember preserving the food...peeling the apples or cutting the corn off the cob to go into the enormous deep freeze that occupied our basement.

And while I wouldn't be on sparkpeople, trying to overcome a lifetime obesity if all of our food traditions had been so healthy, I am convinced that these special treats were at least as good as baking cookies or making rice krispie treats.

I still bake for people I care about. I made cinnamon rolls this week, as a matter of a fact. (And my cinnamon rolls have enough butter in them to make Paula Deen blush!) But I am working to make events in my life not revolve around food.

A friend of mine (who's lost about 100 lbs in the past year plus) explained to me how she does that. "When I go out with friends, I remind myself that I am there to be social, not just to eat. The main event is the social time, not the meal." In this way, she can handle happy hours and dinners out with ease. She just remembers that she can enjoy herself just as much eating salad with chicken as a richer meal and dessert.

I'm learning to take a page from her book.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Some of my best memories are of cooking with my mom too--making brownies and frosting birthday cakes, but also making soup and baking bread. I think you can make those memories with any kind of food really.

    I see my niece 2-3 times a year, and when I do, we make ridiculous things. This year for Christmas we made a Bûche de Noël. Meringue mushrooms, ganache frosting, the whole bit. I think that there were 12 eggs and 3 cups of whipping cream in that monster. But it was clear when we were doing it that it was a once a year kind of thing. And then we went snowshoeing. So I hope that she sees that food can be an indulgence, but it shouldn't always be, and that fun can be had outside of the kitchen too.
    2182 days ago
    Wow, lots to think about. Thanks for posting. Haha, definitely some "food for thought"!

    I have a 2yo. We are trying to create our traditions and memories right now. It does give me pause to think about what is at the centre of our traditions.

    Right now, I think I am creating most of our fun memories around activities (playgroud is her favourite place to be right now!), and back yard time (wagons, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, yard work).... but the thing that gets me is the "holidays".

    Easter = chocolate
    v-day = chocolate
    Christmas = treats all day
    Birthday = cake and candy

    I have really noticed how a little sugar really affects her behaviour, so I am really trying to limit sugary treats on holidays to one small serving. It is hard, because everyone wants to give treats to happy sweet little kids! Short term - they become monsters that MOM has to deal with. Long term - well, we all know how that goes.

    Anyways, we owe it to ourselves to be jsut as vigilent to ourselves as to our loved ones.

    Thanks for the interesting blog, look forward to hearing more once you have digested your thoughts on this!
    2183 days ago
    Well said!

    The very first thing that crossed my mind is that the original tradition was never meant to be about a specific food (aka Rice Krispies treats or cookies). The tradition was about a mother sharing a love for cooking and teaching her children their way around a kitchen (in a fun way).
    2183 days ago
    mmhmm! I don't have kids, but I also wonder how many memories have to be around food. I need to take a page out of your friend's book, too!
    2184 days ago
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