When we get homesick, which is quite frequent among expats, food is a way of comfort. We crave for culinary delights from back home. This doesn’t mean that local food is not as good as what we grew up with! It just means food is more than nutriments.
Life is not possible without food. Our first reflex as new born babies is to suckle, in order to get nutrients for survival. And we quickly learn that the person caring for us will provide us with food whenever we cry. This person must really love us, as she drops everything else in order to attend to our needs.
As we grow, food becomes more than survival. It becomes a social exchange, a way to make friends at school by trading the goods in the lunch boxes. It is a social display of affection if we look at the amazing food boxes daily used in Japan. Each culture has a different approach to food, but always with a deep meaning attached to it. For instance, for Christians it represents a way to get together and celebrate around incredible meals for Christmas or any other holly day. For Jewish people it represents a divine commandment to celebrate festivals through good food and wine. In Buddhist temples there are opulent food offerings in order to honor the gods and to remind people not to be greedy and selfish.
At the end of the year there are many celebrations going on in many cultures worldwide. This provides a perfect occasion to focus on food and its social implications. What do people do when they expect guests? They immediately think about what’s going to be on the menu, what are they going to impress their guests with. Whenever we have guests, we’d like to offer them the best treats we have in our home, or prepare for them sumptuous meals, as a token of our appreciation. In Eastern countries such as Romania where I grew up, it is a must to share the best food you have in your possession with your guests, even when it might mean there is none left for yourself for the next day. When you appreciate somebody, you will prepare for them a feast fit for a king, just to show how much you care. No need for words – food is the living testimony of love.
So, the next time you crave for something to eat, think about the values that specific food means to you, think about what you are really looking for.
Sometimes we have needs that are not being fulfilled, so we would like to fill the void with something that produces us pleasure. Other times we are being nostalgic, or simply like to enjoy good food. And since our first experiences with pleasure in life are always associated with feeding, we are trying to reproduce the pleasant feeling through culinary delights.
What does food mean for you, dear reader? Take a moment and think about the message this particular food has for you. Surely there are specific feelings or needs that you can identify with a specific food. When you can make the connection between food and emotions, you can bring food to a whole new dimension. Let your feelings and values transpire through the food you treat yourself and others with. Be present! Enjoy!