Saturday, November 04, 2006

From frying to food security

I cooked a lovely dinner tonight in my new skillet (thanks, mom!) * Since dinner took awhile, as I was cooking I got to thinking about how I feel about food and eating as I was cutting and chopping and mixing and stirring and frying. I have an odd relationship with food, not in terms of any sort of disorder or negative associations, but to the extent that I feel grateful for it. I appreciate my food every single time I walk into my kitchen, and have a huge sense of gratitude that there is food there that I can eat and that I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. It's a blessing, I know, and not one that I take lightly or fail to recognize on at leats a semi-daily basis. Maybe this way of thinking is not just me, but it's not something that I've never really heard...well...anyone speak about all that much, and it would interest me to know if anyone else feels this way.

In any case, food security is a huge interest of mine, both from an academic point of view and just from the fact that I feel that everyone has a basic right to food. Not that I think people shouldn't have to work for it, or just expect it to magically appear. But, I believe that everyone has a right to healthy, affordable food, and that we should work to ensure that right. I've worked at foodbanks. I've seen hungry people. I've seen grateful people. I've seen people so hungry that they could barely wait to leave the site before they eat, and it's torn my heart out every time. I hear so many stories from friends of mine who work in food banks that make my heart feel like it's crunching up until I start to get teary. It bothers me that the cycle of hunger is so dificult to get out of. Proper nutrition is the basis of so many things in life, including life itself, that I sometimes just don't understand why it isn't the basis of more social programs, more attention, more concern.

To be fair, I know there is a good deal of concern out there - there are agencies and people working as hard as they can to make a difference. I was in the grocery store the other day, and they're running their annual campaign called, "Toonies for Tummies" which is designed to deal with child hunger. (For those of you who are American, Canadians have a two-dollar coin called a Toonie.) There were a number of people ahead of me in line, and every single one, when asked, refused to give $2.00. I'm sure not everyone can afford to give, especially if they're having a hard time feeding themselves or their families, but the lack of donations out of all of those people really bothered me (not to mention the rudeness that two of them showed when they were asked.)

Maybe they donate money in the privacy of their homes, or volunteer every week at a food bank or soup kitchen. Maybe they know hunger intimately, painfully, in themsleves or on the faces of their family and would give if they could. Maybe, after living with my mother (who annually puts together a lot of food for the local food bank, and always includes some cookies or chocolate or nice tea because she firmly believes that everyone should have a treat every now and again) I just expect more of the average person. I can't pretend to know why people don't seem to give, and I really wouldn't condemn anyone for not giving if they had their own reasons not to. But I guess I want to fix the world and especially the things that bother me most, and I want there to be more people with me on this and making a gesture. And I try to recognize that my occasional frustration with other people may just be my frustration with myself for not being able to do as much as I'd like.

For now, I give when and what I can, in both time and money. For the most part, that works for me. And every single day when I walk into my kitchen, I remember what food means to me, how much I appreciate having it there, and how good my life really is.

* I actually took a photo of tonight's dinner, which was a lovely healthy pad thai from Hot Sour Salty Sweet, but because of the dark and the camera flash, it turned out...well...badly. Someday I'll figure out how to take good photos...really I will.

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