My mom was the daily cook in our house and she had about a dozen staple dishes that she made on rotation. Fried chicken. Spaghetti in the crock pot. Cabbage rolls. Broiled salmon. Chicken Cacciatore. Hamburgers. Steak. Split pea soup. Beef stew. We were a meat and potatoes Midwestern cuisine family.
I don’t believe that she enjoyed cooking but that she viewed it as the chore of feeding her family healthy food. We ate really well and I am not complaining. We never had white bread in the house. Sugary cereals were a no no. Fresh produce was in abundance so much so that often it was forgotten to rot in a bottom drawer of the refrigerator.
Something was missing in that equation though. I wasn’t expected to help cook and dinner was something we all showed up for but didn’t participate in. Us 3 kids didn’t help clean the kitchen. We weren’t expected to learn to cook. Food was just a necessity.
This is all indicative of a missing culture around food and we as a culture are robbing ourselves of a very valuable, enjoyable part of life.
I learned about food culture by studying abroad in France. I started going to France when I was 13-years-old and just kept going every couple of years. Food is a central part of social life and an evening ritual for families. Children help make the meal, set the table, gather ingredients, bring out dishes and learn to socialize during it all. Parents help in the kitchen and teach kids how to prepare the meal. Because of this, recipes and traditions are continued through generations and food culture is preserved.
Even the act of shopping for food is a daily part of life and a deeply ingrained part of the culture. Food is purchased daily from local markets, bakeries, cheese stores and outdoor markets.
Eating out is a rare event and kind of a big deal in France. It is expensive and takes a long time because enjoyment of the meal is the priority and zipping through a meal is just bad manners.
I would love to see a thriving food culture here in the US. I’m doing my best to create a food culture in my own home by having people over often for meals and taking lots of time each day to prepare healthy, local, delicious food from scratch.
What do you do in your life to enhance food culture?