What about culture?
Depending on what culture you come from, there are expectations in regards to food consumption, especially when families get together and feast, just like this past Easter weekend. My family is Christian and we usually get together on Easter Sunday to feast. First, we do the opening of the easter gifts, true to form this contains 2 things usually; the first is a mound of chocolate, eggs, bunnies, and the like. The second is something new to wear, we have our own Easter parade, if you will.
Then we sit down for Easter dinner, the main ingredient in which is the type of meat we are going to eat. Generally, we choose between turkey, spiral ham, cornish hens, duck, and lamb.
In 1960, T.S. Eliot wrote a book entitled ‘Christianity and Culture’. He wrote about the decline of culture in Britain as the indifference in the art of preparing food. He described a culture as what makes life worth living and it’s influence makes civilization worth while. Cooking and eating therefore is not just a simple means of existing but based on our cultural influences. Feasting is one of the things that makes existing worth while.
So what is culture? Culture is an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behaviour which is transmitted to succeeding generations. A culture is a group of people held together by common memories being shared.
So, feasting is closely related to those memories, we eat in particular ways in order to remember who we are. We pass those memories of our past history onto our children. In this way the memorable meal helps the next generation to understand their own heritage. Consider your own childhood, think of the very best times that you shared with your family. When I think of those very best times, the dining room table is what comes to mind, the smell of the meat cooking, the anticipation of the drama between family members around the table, setting the table and trying to find space enough for all of the bowls of vegetables, sauces, and condiments.
The brain remembers these odours and smells and memories that come to mind from when we were a child. I think T.S. Eliot was reflecting on how people had started to starve, not from lack of food, but from the lack of meaning.
It is important to consider how this food knowledge is being passed down in your household, there is something wonderful and magical about food preparation that reflects your culture and these are the things that need to be held onto. What makes them special is that they are kept for special occasions. However, how we eat every single day is most impactful. What you do everyday needs to give you meaning, and meaning is found by how and what you are eating.
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