Back, far back, in the mist of time when the world was very young, and old generations of men were fighting for no particular reason, in those dark days, food was by no means a pleasure. Instead, it was a pure and fundamental necessity. The only concerns those generations had about food were: eat whatever you find, and be quiet about your findings.
Eating at the table started as a way to solve problems; the chiefs of the tribes, clans or groups in dispute had to sit together and share their food. This particular happening was a milestone towards more social behavior. They started to set a few rules, for instance: do not raise your voice at the person opposite of you; do not bring your weapons; do not eat from your guest’s or host’s plate, and eat all the food you are given.
Since then, we have evolved our customs around the table. We use food as a means of seducing, feeding, and controlling, and even for its original conception: negotiating.
My fascination with food started precisely around the table. I’m certain that we all have great memories of dinners with family and friends where everyone tried everyone else’s dishes. Or even better, we remember dinners that were prefaced by the expectation of what would be served. Those dishes were the main character of the evening, followed by multiples stories, jokes, teasing, and flirting from the dinner guests. It would be great to eat like this every single night. Yet, the reality is something else.
How have we changed around the table?
Apparently my food choices have been gradually related to how I’ve chosen my friends, furthermore, how I ditch them, and I can tell you without a doubt , they’ve done the same. The standards associated to food that once were fundamental to human gratification have traveled so far into a grey area that is difficult to say what you are eating is what you would really like to eat. What we choose is distorted into a synonym of choice equals goals.
This is confusing, because the set of values that we applied to choose our food have changed, and we have changed along as well, complicating the methodical process of feeding yourself and others. We encounter so many conflicting options such as novelty vs. tradition, in which we are willing to experience new trends. Then there is technology vs. nature, in which we are surrounded by packs of fortified, enriched foods. Convenience vs. care, economy vs. extravagance, and so on.
Well, this is when friendship enters into place
Nowadays, food, instead of giving us a thrill, is making us anxious. I must admit that I have acquired many of my food choices through-out the years by travelling and enriching my taste spectrum. Being an eater (as some people called me) and daring to try different cusines, I thought most people would be willing to do the same when the opportunity arises. But to my surprise I have encountered a segmented eaters environment. There are people that are so fixed into disciplinarian, not-fun-at-all diets, that their health consciousness is taking over, producing a mismatch with me. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m very health conscious as well, but I’m not a fanatic. I couldn’t eat the same dish every evening. I allow myself the privilege to eat what is offered.
To find a common ground, I’m forced to make sets of friend based on food. It’s not like the old days where I had friends with whom I could go clubbing, other with whom I could explore a city or take a trip to a museum, others whom I could tell anything and those whom were good for a girly talk. Yes, this is how I used to do it. The pure idea of expressing yourself with your food choices, the sensorial enjoyment, the emotional experiences, have become a burden. To minimize this unpleasant feeling, I socialize and invite by sets. One night to my veggie friends, the other night, those who count calories or proteins or whatever is on the table (those I like to tease the most), then the super fit “all about nutrition”, then the micro-biotic lovers, and other nights those who enjoy every single dish and drink without reservation. It is they who understand that to get the best of what you are eating, you have to do it in total relaxation. Stress plays the devil when it comes to food, and even more with indulgent treats. Stress equals storing.
The only disadvantage to this situation, as you can imagine, is that I can never invite the whole group at once. I need to combine here and there like an alchemist to get suitable sets. Sometimes the mingling works, let’s not talk about when it doesn’t.
Having said all this, where am I standing when it comes to food and friendship? I can honestly say that I love food but I love my friends too, regardless their peculiarities. In fact, these make them special to me. Although I complained and tried to change them (like they did to me), gathering around the table is still a pleasure that awards moments to be remembered, despite the fact that I’m not sure that I truly like all that I eat, nonetheless, I eat it all.