Meal: expression of love or “scratching of biological itch”?

"Hunger makes good sauce." - my grandmother (and probably yours too)

An excellent and incisive article on many fronts courtesy of Ann Nichols on Salon.com about the frugal cooking theory of Helen Nearing.  Ms. Nearing, who lived to 91 and whose dearly beloved Scott lived to 100, is an icon in the “back to the land” movement. The pioneering couple lived off the land on a farm in Maine, and espoused the belief that food should be eaten for pure nutrition, out of pure hunger. The purer the hunger, the tastier the food. No salt needed. In this, she provides a thoughtfully-argued exposition for that old adage of grandma, echoed by my father before many an eagerly-anticipated dinner:

“Hunger makes good sauce”.

I hope Ms. Nichols won’t mind me displaying this wondrous picture from her blog, as a means to entice readers to sample her lovely article!

Ms. Nichols – someone who enjoys cooking, taste, and sharing meals with loved ones – tackles this contentious problematic: food as fuel. She jots down her own honest and incisive reactions to Ms. Nearing’s “frugal” cookbook, entitled Simple Food for the Good Life.

Having experienced both the simple joys of raw greens to sate a deep hunger and the odd sensation of eating a gourmet meal on a mostly-full stomach just to please its preparer, I find myself sitting somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Surely, we overstimulate our taste buds, hence the need for thirty ingredients in a single Pringle. But surely beautiful tastes can lead to beautiful exchanges as well, expressions, as they are, of care and concern on the part of the cook.

So I found myself very obviously concerned with Ms. Nichol’s main question (Food: Fuel or Love?) I have to say I found myself engaging in some nourishing reading!

cooking is drudgery and that eating is nothing more than scratching a biological itch sharpened my own sense that there is an essential spiritual component to cooking and eating. I can’t imagine a large Italian family sitting down to a Sunday dinner at Nona’s house and having nothing rich, spicy or lovingly prepared set on the table, and I can’t imagine that scenario in many Jewish, Indian, African American, Greek or Chinese families, either. It’s not about conspicuous or excessive consumption; there are cultures in which culinary miracles are wrought with very little in the way of ingredients and a great deal in the way of skill and tradition. With love.

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2 thoughts on “Meal: expression of love or “scratching of biological itch”?

  1. I prefer big meals. I grew up on them. And I come from a mixture of the cultures listed above and food is important. Sure, maybe if the human race viewed food as sustenance-only, we may eat less, save more etc…but then we don’t live in that world. We live in a world that over-produces and mass-produces…everything. Hmmm interesting!

    1. Yes, you’re right we (at least many of us in the West) live in a world where food is more than just sustenance. And that can be a great thing – so much opportunity for expression through food, creativity, concern, love, etc. I do agree that there is over-production and consumption, though. Perhaps it all comes down to our intentions in the end with how we use, manipulate, create out of…etc. the food.

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