Knowledge Through a Connection with Food
Updated: Sep 14, 2021
"Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale." - Elsa Schiaparelli in her autobiography, Shocking Life.
Whether food is good or not is very subjective to those of different cultures, but it doesn't always have to be so complex. We can start small, learn more and educate future students on reconnecting with the sustenance of our earth and encountering the parallels between food, pleasure and well-being. We can only learn to appreciate the good in our food if we experiment with ingredients, learn how other cultures live and eat, and revise with the knowledge we've gained. To me, food is beautiful, because I grew up understanding the difference and what it means to grow your own food and not rely on frozen or processed product that has a lack of beauty. Through my travels, I have begun to acknowledge how my food intake can be an opportunity to taste and experience what brings pleasure to cultures around the world. To grow in my connections with the people that produce and cook my food, while sharing this knowledge with others. There are multiple programs around the world dedicated to bringing food science on a much more approachable level. The University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo is one of those places. Their stories on alumni of the program inspire me. These doers in the field of gastronomy have found their place and profession to bring this knowledge to their countries, but gaining the valuable education from a place that is connected to the Slow Food Movement. By beginning to identify the source, we can develop our own perspective on what food is good. My journey now will begin to identify the teachers, writers and professionals who are continuing to bring this education and building my own knowledge of gastronomy.
I started with developing an understanding of my own Italian culture so I picked up the book, Let the Meatballs Rest and Other Stories About Food and Culture by Massimo Montanapi. Since I work in the apparel industry, I have always been engulfed in the notion of how beautiful and quality clothing can help us to feel something, or at least bring forward some kind of connection to our identity. It is subjective to everyone, but this authors view on food related to my view of fashion. How different cultures create garments based upon their vision in the world, inspiration of their environment and that of those who want to wear their clothes, can compare to the world of food. My perspective of the artisan clothing makers trade is that it is becoming obsolete, yet hopeful that it doesn't have to. We just need more people to learn it and develop the quality we so desperately need again in the industry. However, if you consider quality of fashion to quality of food, beautiful could be it. Montanapi writes, "Beauty is not the privilege of the few. It is a primary need of the individual and of society. Beauty is natural, but it has to be cultivated and is therefore also culture. Beauty makes things more acceptable, more pleasing, more desirable. The beauty of food is thus no marginal to the gustatory experience. To define a food as beautiful does not mean reducing it to a visual object, or concentrating on secondary aspects of the table and of gastronomy. Beauty is a global experience that beings long before products become food; it comprises respect for the environment, attention to the growing places and seasons of plants, and gratitude to those who work the soil and provide us with the food. Then there is attention to detail, the harmony of the event, the sincerity of the relationships that bring us together around the table. All of this is beauty, not as accessory but as necessity; the beauty of freshly picked fruit, the beauty of good health, of sharing, of honesty."
He continues on to describe how cultures play a big role in the development of our taste, understanding and pleasure. "The amount of culture that is, the knowledge and labor, contained in this highly complex procedure is incredible. It almost encapsulates the whole of human abilities, techniques and skills collected over millennia, allowing us to domesticate nature and transorm the world. Bread has served to feed humanity, to fill the stomach, but it has also acquired fundamental symbolic values. Articulated in the forms, flavors, and modes of cooking, it gained an infinite number of variants, useful not only to break the monotony of daily life, but beyond that, to define spaces, times, collective identities. Each region, each community has its own bread; with certain breads for certain holidays. As Jean-Louis Flandrin has indicated, the extraordinarily dense symbolism attributed to bread would be incomprehensible without the genuine excellence of the product. The amplitude and importance of the values bread has acquired in our culture would not be possible without its high intrinsic value---a taste, a flavor, a fragrance, an incomparable alimentary and gastronomic quality. Before becoming something else, bread was truly, concretely, the king of foods, and it could be that because men invested in it all their physical and mental energies."
The importance placed upon the look of the dish, the taste, the care that went into making it is not only important for the person who prepares it, but who they share this delicate food with. Obtaining the right mindset to allow yourself to see the beauty in the sharing of food is special. A story behind why someone builds a restaurant or starts a cook book is dedicated vision--and the passion and the wholesomeness that these important meals have on the human spirit is incredible. The importance of a loaf of bread to different cultures around the world, or a first picked fruit, knowing the ripeness, the value of one vegetable or the meaning behind what quality food is. I have been trying to find this value in the term quality and pleasure of food, and the creator of the book Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should be Good, Clean, and Fair." by Carlo Petrini identifies how food needs to be good, clean and fair. "The enjoyment of food, which is constantly sought with the utmost ingenuity even where food is in short supply is a physiological, instinctive matter, but one that is somehow rejected by our society. Gastronomy has not attained the status of a science, nor even really been taken seriously, because it is a subject that concerns pleasure."
"The awareness of the complexity of the food system is acquired by education, study, and the exercise of the senses. So the legitimate wish to seek pleasure should never be censured, belittled, repressed, or relegated to other fields; the search for pleasure needs to be educated. We all deserve the right to learn how food is produced and where it comes from and culinary education is not something that we are brought up on rather it is to those who seek and are interested. It is a guidance that only upon those who wish to seek this pleasure can provide the tools, convey that information and develop the awareness. What programs need to be are concentrated on sensorial analysis as a means of understanding, as a basis for evaluating productive, territorial and technical differences. This gives a new perspective and changes their approach to food laying a foundation for a conscious way of eating. We need to stimulate the senses, to bring about curiosity in food."
He goes on to write, "No one has the right to judge someone else's food on the basis of their own "cultural" taste: if we accept that description of food as a language, it becomes a means of communication, and in order to judge it we must learn to recognize the categories of the good which have codified it, as a language, in that particular culture. We must learn other culinary languages. The good that we must learn about food is objective and has a political connotation. In order to reappropriate reality, we must take two important steps: recover our sensorially as the found auto of a new way of thinking and acting or reacting; and gain respect for other cultures by learning to understand other peoples categories (categories necessary for recognizing the good). These steps can help us to communicate, to work together to redeem food-producing communities, and, ultimately, to perceive reality through our senses as a great network of flavours and knowledge."