Socializing hinges upon consumption, well at least it does for many of us. All too often, the scene of good times conjures the commercial of friends sharing beer or ordering each other drinks at a bar, or sharing a nice meal out. I love to bask in the glory of a dish cooked to perfection. I love it even more when the tastes are shared over banter and story time amongst friends.
Food has a funny way of bringing us together. If we’re cowboys, the sound of the dinner bell brings us home. Ice cream truck tunes bring us and any kid on the block to at least look toward the street, if not race out curbside, to fork over our dollars for a cold treat. We gather around the fire to roast marshmallows and make smores while sharing scary stories. It’s not that we only gather to eat, or that we eat to gather; rather, we know that food enhances the gathering and vice versa. Friends make the food more savory, each bite sweeter, as does the food make your buddies’ jokes just a tad more funny.
We adopt norms and etiquettes in how we communicate and express ourselves to one another as friends. There is an amount of social capital built in our food behaviors. Food is glue that can certainly bind but also stand in the way of relationships. On one hand, hospitality outwardly fosters the establishment and strengthening of bonds; however, one can see how a lack of dietary agreement or access to food can create obstacles to relationships.
Food can highlight some serious social inequalities influenced by class, race, and gender. It’s pretty difficult for a BBQ Pit master to relate to a Vegan Sous Chef, because our food and food choices have become value-laden statements about how we are. Just as the clothes we wear and car-make and model we drive, society has classified what we eat to say volumes about who we are. After all, we are what we eat, right? And friends don’t let friends eat that terrible fast food or sugary soft drink. Friends are quick to rag and joke about never being caught dead inside certain fast food chains. We’ve taken on a very elitist attitude by forming opinions of the Other based on foods; where food choices become condemning actions in the eyes of others. The hungry don’t care about free-range or high-fructose corn syrup. Even when faced with limited access to food, people go to extraordinary lengths to eat food with their family and friends whenever possible. Hopefully we remember there are people that simply wish they had food to share with a friend.
The pleasure of food and dining among friends is undeniable. Those experiences are cornerstones of social life, which isn’t a bad thing. People express emotions and one medium used for that expression is food, particularly through shared meals. Sharing compassion and empathy for others hopefully reminds us of how to share those good times with as many people as possible, whenever possible. It’s really hard to find a better shared meal than $25 buying 100 school meals via the World Food Programme and 25inchange.org. Each time I eat during this advocacy, I’m sharing a meal with young friends I’ve never met. Although still hungry, I love every rice grain and bean shared with hungry kids, these Advocates, and all of our Partners who have made this possible.