Last night, Michael and I brought dinner to our friends who recently had a gorgeous baby girl. As we were chomping on pulled pork sandwiches, my friend turned to me and said “I never knew how much I’d love people bringing over dinner after a day with the baby. This is so great.” After she finished her sandwich, she asked if we would be comfortable if she breastfed at the table. How could we not be? It’s all part of the cycle of nourishment.
Michael and I make a habit of bringing dinner to our friends when they become parents. Selfishly, it’s a great excuse to meet the wee one and see our friends (many of whom are quite inspirational when it comes to all things related to parenting and birth). I’m not sure when we started doing this— it’s always felt incredibly easy, natural and important. Last night, I realized this tradition was one that had been passed to me from my grandmother, via my parents (the three of them never hesitate to bring dinner to friends recovering from surgery or illness). We are a family of feeders.
One of my research and writing interests is food/eating practices and the role they play in our culture(s) and lives. Though I’ve published quite a few short pieces on culinary travel and “foodie lit,” I’ve never seriously delved into the topic of food and culture. I’d like to change that. I’m not sure I can say anything that Michael Pollan, Michael Steinberger, or the host of other food writers I admire haven’t already covered, but that won’t stop me from trying.
The idea for a book on food and culture was born on a rainy November night in a pub near our house. Antsy to begin a new project, I was sending ideas over my beer mug and across the table to Michael, who would volley them back after adding his own twist. We began talking about the best meals we’d had in different parts of the world. While Michael focused on the culinary components (recounting all of the ingredients and preparation techniques used in a meal we shared in Spain early in our relationship), I zeroed in on the practices and customs association with eating (telling him about the long, tradition-packed Christmas meals I enjoyed at my surrogate “mamie’s” home in France when I was in my early twenties). All of these elements are part of the expansive, weblike topic that is “food and culture.”
At this point, I’m envisioning this project as a book of essays rooted in culinary travel, but with an emphasis on everyday gustatory experiences (not just the exceptional, “mountain top” foodie fests). I’m interested in other peoples’ stories about meals and eating practices at home and abroad and, as always, welcome any comments you may have.