…worlds pass between one bite and another
– Carol Counihan
This blog is an attempt to survey some of these worlds, whether they be thoughts, words, gestures, stories, songs, or tastes.
What is a meal?
Perhaps a communion, a configuration, an embodied agreement…
Who’s at a meal?
Forms are varied. Players are in flux. Yet the table (or mat, or grass) is a terrain, a landscape for social, political interaction.
Where is a meal?
Maybe a meal occurs on a plate, or over words in a room. Maybe it begins with the ways we set the table, or the genetic information inside a seed that sprouts.
Something happens when food is set between us. When food enters the mouth and our identities are sprinkled over the plate.
I’ve spent much of the past decade cooking and eating amongst folk in all sorts of odd places. It started when I got my first job as a line cook at a gastro-pub at age 19, and followed me through several provinces and countries, all the way back to Montréal, where I recently completed my Master’s thesis in Media Studies at Concordia University, exploring the dish as a media assemblage through performance and participant ethnography.
Finally, I am blessed to be surrounded by compelling research daily, thanks to my day job working in web for Concordia University.
Still reading? More thoughts
Is a table set with plates so different from a stage with a curtain awaiting to be drawn? And if so, who are the actors emerging from the wings? 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)?
“People ask me, why do you write about food?” uttered M.F.K. Fischer, 20th-century literary-culinary saint. Her reply:
…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.
In this communion we revel. And in one of its tangible forms, perhaps the mealscape, too, might leave its trace here.
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 expression of the participants! Herein we can pour our tastes, thoughts, scenes and gestures.
So, enough talk: à table, déjà! We’re all invited…