Imagine for a moment that you are hundreds or perhaps thousands of years in the future. The Universe has run out of fertile soil to grow crops. Animals, other than humans, are only in history books. But man, in his brilliance, has found a way to keep himself alive by synthesizing proteins, minerals, vitamins, and fiber into one small nutrition biscuit that takes exactly 30 seconds to chew and swallow. The biscuit provides enough calories to keep a person alive for 24 hours so only one is needed. The wasted hours of mealtime and food preparation are no longer needed. Man can work continuously on other projects to “enhance” his life.
Sound like a nightmare? From our earliest moments when we recognize the smell of our mother’s milk, food is not only a physical necessity for life but a sensual one too. Food gives enjoyment; food sustains life; food or lack of it runs the world. Just as plentiful food enhances life, lack of food destroys life. Ask anyone who has been through a famine or hard time and they will tell you that abundance of food is a thing of joy. They will also tell you that it was an experience they’ll never forget and they are grateful for every meal.
Watch any courting couple and if they’re truly in love, sometime while eating together, one will feed the other. Perhaps it is a chocolate-dipped strawberry or just a spoonful of soup, but the act of feeding another is a gesture of love. We show our love and concern with food by cutting a child’s sandwich into triangles, by taking a hot casserole to an ailing neighbor, by celebrating a holiday with special foods. From the simple Communion wafer to the banquet spread, food is much more than itself. It’s a recognition that food comes from a higher power than our own hands. Whether it is God or Mother Nature that you thank before a meal, aloud or in silence, the acknowledgement is there that we are just the intermediaries. By preparing and giving food to others we are adding a greater than human element to our interactions.
For many of us, food enhances our lives not just by feeding us by supporting us financially. The farmer, the grocer, the chef, and the cooking show celebrity or writer all can thank food for their livelihood. Artists and photographers add food items to their still lifes, demonstrating once again that any work of art is enhanced by the presence of food. Entire industries are supported by preparing and marketing new foods. Dietitians, fitness trainers, and weight loss specialists enhance our lives by teaching us how to have a healthy relationship with food.
The beauty of growing and harvesting foods gives us a sense of belonging to the earth. From planting peas in spring soil to picking berries with friends, food deepens our understanding of life’s cycles and our connection with the Earth. There is something so deeply satisfying about bringing food from the garden to the table or better yet to the doorstep of a friend or neighbor. A gift of food speaks of caring rather than obligation. For the millions of us who “like to feed people,” we all understand the deep satisfaction that comes from sharing the vital substance of food.
Our lives are tremendously enhanced by food. Food gives us an opportunity to bond in the garden, in the kitchen, and at the table. It gives us a chance to be creative and to have fun. It gives us joy in celebration and comfort in sorrow.
Now, just how are they going to do that with nutrition wafers in the future? Don’t ask me to time travel. I’m staying right here