Telling Your Food Story, Letter from the Publisher
We all have our own food stories to tell. Whether we grew up on TV dinners or we’re in the industry or we just recently realized we’re foodies. Our stories are shaped by a myriad of factors that are constantly evolving:
1. Family—Is food a topic of interest and discussion in our family? Do we have food traditions, cherished family recipes or food-related memories like Aunt Edna’s pot roast disaster we trot out at every family gathering?
2. Culture and Religion—Does our culture celebrate food traditions and festivals? What are the key ingredients in our cuisine? Are there foods that our religion says are taboo?
3. Economics—For some of us, it’s a struggle to get food on the table every day. For others, like the multi-millionaire I just met, it’s explaining to friends why you would spend thousands of dollars on a bottle of real Champagne.
4. Geography—Do we still live in the town we grew up in and intimately know all of the flora, fauna, traditions and producers? Or have we traveled near or far, sampling new dishes and making them our own?
5. Health—Is what we eat dictated by the latest health trend? Do we have real food allergies or nutrition concerns? Are we struggling with obesity?
6. Hands-on Experience—Some of us are cooks, gardeners, hunters/fishers/gatherers or food industry workers. Others are masters of takeout or fine dining or uncovering neighborhood ethnic restaurants.
7. Psychology—For many people, food is just sustenance and worth no more thought than the air they breathe. For others of us, it’s comfort or control or affection or more.
8. Taste—What are the foods we crave and the foods we detest? How have our palates changed over time? Do we have a “go-to” dish? What’s our latest food find?
9. Food Heroes—Who are the people who have influenced our relationship with food? They may be dear friends or a kooky aunt who introduced us to new tastes, writers/artists who’ve helped us to see food in a new way or local restaurateurs/farmers/beverage makers who’ve taught us what it is to eat or drink something amazing.
I find all of these personal food stories fascinating for the glimpses they provide into other lives and other worlds. You can also tell a lot about people by their relationships to food. I once heard about a researcher who could divine where a person grew up and their ethnic background simply by asking them to describe a typical Thanksgiving dinner when they were young. Your food stories can reveal if you’re timid or adventurous, deeply rooted or footloose, creative or traditional.
I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy my food book club so much; as we discuss the books we bring our own food experiences to the table. The holidays are also a perfect time to share our food stories whether it’s a structured Slow Food potluck where everyone is asked to bring a dish they can tell a story about or just sharing our food experiences around the table at the next family meal.