This sign is hanging in a small eatery in Siem Reap in Cambodia. My daughter, Alyssa Schwartz, snapped this photo while she was there on assignment (she’s a writer).
You might look at it and think: well, of course food is an important part of a balanced diet. But if you really consider it, it’s a concept that many people seem to have lost touch with.
Yes, food is meant to sustain us – to maintain good health and prevent disease – but also to nourish us as individuals, family members and as part of a community. In the past, food has also meant tradition and has provided insight into cultural norms.
But nowadays, it seems, for many, food is only about a quick fix – for example, a protein bar or a meal replacement to bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch, frozen convenience products for kids to snack on or for family meals. Many are too busy to sit down and break bread together.
Cooking has fallen by the wayside. In some homes, there is no family member with the skills or the confidence to prepare meals.
We live in a society filled with conflicting attitudes. The ability to prepare meals for a family is a skill that is given much too little respect, yet we have culinary stars and heroes on television cooking shows.
But food is also about love. It’s about sharing and thinking about someone you care about. It’s not about how fabulous a meal you can make. It’s about showing someone you care about that you took some time – a few minutes or a few hours – to provide that person with a food you created. I always think of my daughters, when they were in pre-school, mixing up water and a little of every spice and herb in my pantry, to make their father soup. As they mixed it up, they discussed with each other about how “much Daddy is going to love it”. When they asked me if I wanted to taste, I answered that I wanted to save it all for Daddy. They had no idea just what their creations tasted like. And when my husband tasted it, he raved about how it tasted – before we discreetly tossed it.
Today, both are incredible cooks who appreciate food.
At the same time as we as a society have this dysfunctional relationship with food, supplement makers have preyed upon the fears of the public about how our food is grown. We’re being told that our soils are depleted of nutrients. Other pill pushers are offering up some miracle nutrient we didn’t know we needed.
We need to get back to basics. We need to remember to that “food is an important part of a balanced diet” and that it’s key to our survival.
Do you think that home economics should be brought back to the curriculum at school? Please share your thoughts about these issues in the comment section below.