When my wife and I lived and worked in Romania it seems like we spent at least twice as much time thinking about food and preparing it than we do here in Indiana. In Romania we didn’t have a car so we couldn’t just stop in at Kroger or Trader Joes. We didn’t have a 21 cubic foot refrigerator so we couldn’t stock up on food like we can here. And fast food was too expensive. Daily, we had to plan what we were to eat that evening then on our way home from work we had to walk to the local grocer or market to pick up the evening meal mostly consisting of fresh local bread, fruits, vegetables and meats.
Not only did we spend a lot of time thinking about what foods to buy and what to eat in Romania, my wife and I spent a lot of time preparing food together. Some of our best conversations (and arguments) were in the kitchen and around the dinner table talking about our day. We also spent a lot of time around the table with guests or as guests in the homes of Romanians eating ciorba and mici and drinking red wine and tuica. The table is the center of culture in Romania. As much as Americans talk about movies and TV shows, Romanians talk about food and drink.
When I compare the two cultures or when someone asks me about our time in Romania I can’t help but think about the quality of life there. It seems that this quality of life almost always involved being in the kitchen or gathering around the table with others. This seems to be the norm around the world. Where people spend a lot of time thinking about preparing food, it seems they are spending that much time with others around the table enjoying what is on their plate and in their glass.
In the States with supermarkets and fast food and already prepared processed food sometimes we quickly fill our stomachs and hurry to what we think is more important or more enjoyable like entertainment or hobbies or sports. But it seems though with these good things we sometimes lack the quality of life around the table eating good local, fresh foods with the ones we love.
So I propose we should spend more time sourcing good food, preparing good food and enjoying good food with others. I propose we should spend more time thinking about good local produce and meats and start getting to know our local farmers and butchers. I propose we should spend more time in the kitchen with the ones we love preparing good food. And maybe we should spend more time around the table over good food and drink laughing, dialoguing, and asking intentional questions with our families and with guests.
I understand that to source good local food means more money out of our monthly budget. But if it is true that most Americans spend 10% or less of their monthly budget on food whereas most of the world spends 20% or more, it seems as if most Americans can afford it. Sure, entertainment and our hobbies are important and spending money on them is justifiable but we cannot live without food nor can we live without community. I also understand that life is busy. With two kids and a full time job I understand that it is easier to buy already prepared foods instead of cooking. But the times when my wife and I and our kids are in the kitchen getting the evening meal together make life seem right and good.
Simply, I think spending more time thinking about local food, preparing it together and enjoying it with others will make us happier people. I believe this will make our families healthier. And I believe that this will build community and culture and grow our local economies.
So may we make it a goal this summer to meet our local farmers and butchers and get our hands on good food. May we spend more time in the kitchen preparing food with our families having good conversations. And may we invite our friends into our homes, raise our glasses and forks to the heavens together, and give thanks.