Food and Community, part 1

I think about food a lot. Growing it. Cooking it. Eating it. Definitely eating it. I like food.

Twenty pounds of canning tomatoes went from being companions at the dinner table on Friday night to decorating our pantry (seventeen pint jars of stunning pasta sauce) on Saturday night. How many people do you know who consider tomatoes “companions” when they’re sitting on your table during dinner?

I got really invested in the entry on “protein” in The Oxford Companion to Food on Saturday morning. This book is amazing.

I swiped three big bunches of fresh basil from our church potluck on Sunday to bring home to put on pizza. It had been serving as a garnish, and I was pretty sure it was just going to get thrown away. Yes, I stole food from a church potluck.

But it just goes to show how much I love food.

Food, of course, is a community identifier. I have a special place in my heart for whoopie pies, saurkraut, hamburger BBQ, and pickled red-beet eggs, among other things, and that places me squarely in a particular community from my childhood.

I guess I’m now more part of a somewhat trendy “foodie” community, since I adore fresh, whole foods, growing vegetables, cooking-from-scratch, and light-on-meat meals. I know that’s kind of hip now, but reading the old-school More-with-Less cookbook put out by the Mennonites in the seventies is what got me there. For the Mennonites, the whole thing is more about food justice than anything else, and I resonate with that. When eating out, I often ask at restaurants if their meat is locally sourced. That definitely is a community identifier. And if you rolled your eyes, then I’d guess you’re not part of that community. 🙂 More-with-Less is still my favorite cookbook–that’s where I learned about the miracle of complete proteins.

I had a visit last week from one of my best friends, O. She now lives in Tennessee, but we grew up together in central PA, and the few days we got to spend together recently were great. We ate Turkey Hill ice cream (now widely available at Kroger, but a distinctly PA brand). We watched an old Heath Ledger movie that came out when we were in high school. We ate junk food. We reminisced. Did I mention we ate a lot of food?

When we found ourselves at a pizza/cafe up in Cincinnati on Thursday, I asked my usual “is your meat locally sourced” question (of course not). So I ordered the classic pesto vegetarian pizza with roasted peppers and feta cheese. Awesome.

O, on the other hand, asked a different question: “Could you use ranch dressing as the sauce on a build-your-own pizza?”

She loves ranch dressing. And I love this about her. Though the pizza guy was pretty adamant about not putting it on as she requested, O was able to convince him, and she said her chicken-bacon-ranch pizza turned out great. Very different than my classic pesto, I’d say.

It got me thinking how we all have our quirks about food. Our other guests early last week forgot two meals’ worth of leftovers in our refrigerator: a hamburger and fries and two slices of very meat-intensive pizza (with a cheese-filled crust). It wasn’t the food I’d order at a restaurant, but guess what?

I ate it.

All of it.

And it was good.

Let’s start thinking about community and about food together. Stay tuned for more food-focused posts, and let me know what you think as we go.

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5 comments on “Food and Community, part 1

  1. Elizabeth's Dad says:

    Yes, food is good. A young friend of mine is of Hawaiian descent and he hates bananas! How is that possible I asked? He laughed and said he ate too many as a kid! I guess I feel the same way about green beans and corn. ‘Pedestrian veggies’ I call them. Each to his own where food is concerned, eh?

    Think I could find local ‘rolled oats’ for my breakfast? :>)

  2. Bonnie says:

    Just like your Italy journal, I love reading about your food journeys!! We are what we eat!

  3. faithc says:

    Looking forward to more foodie posts! I also love food and it’s ability to bring together a group of people…just gathered with some colleagues over lunch and still on a high from our small group’s end-of-summer cookout last night at our house.

  4. elizabeth says:

    Thanks all!

    For some reason I have “Food, glorious food!” from the musical Oliver in my head…

  5. stephen says:

    One aspect of “food and community” that I really like is preparing food for/with my community. Every Sunday, we host a small group at our house and I prepare a meal for them. Though it’s a challenge to find things that work for everyone, it’s great fun.

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