Perspectives on the Mealscape

The mealscape is a figurative one. It is what occurs when food enters the mouth, and energy begins to flow between outer and inner, body and mind, and more often than not, people themselves…

The mealscape is a unique and under-appreciated terrain of exchange. It is, above all else, a space of communion. Its forms are varied. Its players are in flux. But the table (or mat, or grass) creates a sort of medium, an agreed-upon sphere in which communication occurs, taking on spontaeous forms.

tampopo film men at a table
Waiting to eat in ''Tampopo'' (dir. Juzo Itami, 1985)

After encounters with meals in several countries, and at the hands of several hosts, the universal yet mutifold nature of this communicative space began to emerge. I began to ask if the meal could not be seen as a perfect stage for human expression?

Is a table set with plates so different from a stage awaiting the curtain to be drawn, actors to emerge from the wings. And if so, what is the script? Is it to be found in the recipes, the procession of courses, the subtle code leading to certain types of exchanges? (imagine how the dynamic might change at your own family’s holiday table with a big raw salad on the table, and nothing else).

Carol Counihan sums it up well when she says, “worlds pass between one bite and another”.

This blog is an attempt to survey some of those worlds, whether they be thoughts, words, gestures, stories, songs, or, of course, tastes.

Finally, a quote from M.F.K. Fischer, 20th century patron saint of the union of word and food:

“People ask me: Why do you write about food?” she writes in the foreword to The Gastronomical Me.

 like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and intertwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it … and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.

I tell about myself, and how I ate bread on a lasting hillside, or drank red wine in a room now blown to bits, and it happens without my willing it that I am telling too about the people with me then, and their other deeper needs for love and happiness.

There is food in the bowl, and more often than not, because of what honesty I have, there is nourishment in the heart, to feed the wilder, more insistent hungers. We must eat. If, in the face of that dread fact, we can find no other nourishment, and tolerance and compassion for it, we’ll be no less full of human dignity.”

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.

To this communion, we revel in — and reveal — the mealscape in all its tangible forms.

Like a meal, this blog is a communal endeavour. Like a meal, it is simply a forum, a ragged and humble frame dependant upon the expresson of the participants!

Herein we can pour our tastes, thoughts, scenes and gestures.

So, enough talk: à table, déjà!

We’re all invited…

Josh Davidson

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