This I Believe

Elizabeth - Owensboro, Kentucky
Entered on July 3, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

This I believe

Food is essential to life. I have been preparing food for myself and others continually for forty-seven years, and I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think about this most serious and gentle daily business. Preparing food has become for me a ritual binding body, mind, and soul together in celebration of life’s essential physical and social functions; a lore of alchemy at its most fundamental.

Sharing food with others is an expressive social act that is also deeply personal. I have learned that food, like conversation, establishes an intimate relationship between external substance and internal need for nourishment. What I prefer to eat, and what I prefer to listen to in music were established in childhood; I’ll always desire sweets (especially chocolate) and sour fruits over lima beans, spam, or fish sticks whenever possible.

Eating joins people together; refusal to eat separates them. When I was a child, I visited blood relatives who served me food, but refused to eat with me because according to their religion I was an outside pollutant. In their house, girls my age who belonged to that church had to stay in a room upstairs, hidden away for fear contact with me would disturb their faith. Later, as an adult, I also had the experience of travel shock broken suddenly, sweetly, and generously when a woman born and raised on the other side of the earth from me put food into my mouth with her own hand. In that moment, she became my mother, and ever since, anyone who eats food I give them becomes my own child.

The good fortune of education and travel has afforded me the chance to observe that eating food shares with speech the central functions of mouth, tongue, teeth, and throat, where breath makes speech possible. I became a member of a solar car transcontinental race team across Australia because I was willing and able to supervise food supplies during that arduous adventure. I learned in the process how to look at someone’s face and know that they need to eat.

The power of life and death is in control of food. A tiny drop of poison kills, but even a swallow of water breaks the shock of trauma, or releases night terrors.

History teaches me that wars are primarily fought over control of food supplies; lands that grow it, the metals or fossil fuels that buy it, and ownership of people who grow and prepare it. In this sense, I believe that food is a global issue; those few who eat, also speak and thrive to afford the luxury of taking food for granted. But those many who do not eat suffer and are mute, their minds occupied solely with lack of food. I try to remember that in the act of preparing food, I bear great responsibility to myself and the well being of another. For me, food is a celebration that blesses the giver, the receiver, and the gift of the food itself.