Dialogue on Food

Illustration by Kelly Grevers

Graham Engel

Up, up, bubbles roll under and over mirepoix and potatoes, caramelized apple and yam, an avalanche in reverse. They come from an impermeable solid, no pores to pour out from; unbelievable, but fire’s transformative, and it would appear something can come out where there is, apparently, nothing for them to come out from.

Fire isn’t the only change-maker; food is too. It turns empty to full, sad to happy, wary to warm. It’s a universal conduit for communion, bonding over the bountiful and beautiful – and sometimes terrible. Shit food can ruin your day. Though it should be said we should be grateful for what we have, as the rest of the world’s dinner plate is rapidly shrinking. Some could say we taught the rest of the world that their role was to prepare for a global banquet in which we were the only guests, and to ignore their own needs. If you deny this, you’re probably an asshole.

This diatribe has waxed poetic and philosophical, and now there comes a point; something else I wanted to say. Food should be shared. In the global view, we’ve begun to rethink our distribution networks, to local and non-agribusiness, but it’s far from improved; we still sit at the head of the table. In the local view, food should be shared with friends, lovers, complete strangers even. Everyone needs to eat, eating needs everyone.

Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom…

Bryson Rhodes

There is just something special about sharing a meal with someone. It is some simple pleasure transcending generations and civilizations. Experimenting in the kitchen leads to culinary feats and defeats, yet cooking remains one of the joys in my life. And I relish the praise garnered from the presentation of some new work or treat, most certainly delectable beyond ken. Why then did I turn down an invitation for dinner tonight?

No, I am not stark raving mad, or at least I do not think so. No, no it is something more than that. Currently I am experiencing the worst financial ruin of my entire adult life. Sure, it would be chic to blame it on the economy, but why lie? This is all my doing, and I am not that ashamed. By not holding down a lucrative job in the summer, and restricting the amount of hours I work during the school year, getting those ends to meet is so very hard. So it is the case that my pantry is bare save for a few of the staples. Now is when people turn to the food bank to make certain that the semblances of three square meals a day are at least met. Surely it is mad, then, to turn down a good thing. Madness!

Whether to surrender myself to my incapacitation and accept their help, or to keep my demented pride and go hungry, this is not a hard decision. My drive for independence gets in the way, and when my back is up against the wall is when I am the most defiant. Infantilization is what I loathe and fear, and when people are offering me out of dire situations it is putting me in a terrible spot. I cannot accept support, no matter the form, and a delicious meal is all the same.

Inventing situations alleging I have just eaten, or even just declining simple invitations to save face. I have to maintain mastery over myself and my affairs, and be the author of my own destiny. My personal failing, then, becomes my public stigma; food then, my joy, becomes my bane.