I’m shipping off to grad school in London (no, not Ontario) in the fall – and I’m trying desperately to conjure up some deep, captivating message about food, agriculture, and culinary ethics that hasn’t already been put on a bestseller list by Barbara Kingsolver, Jamie Oliver, or Mark Bittman.
I could try to predict the next big ingredient trend (it’s going to be durian, by the way), or make bold speculations about the future of molecular gastronomy, or run a recipe for the perfect chocolate chip cookie (because there aren’t enough out there).
There’s no shortage of observations and commentaries to be made about food, but I think the one that has struck me the most this year is how much I hate eating alone. I’ve tried it a couple of times, bringing a notebook to meals with the hopes of writing the beginning of a recipe or a column, but I know now that it’s not for me.
After a few years of living on my own, I still haven’t mastered the art of cooking enough food for one person – and not because I’m a glutton and will eat three portions of something (to be fair, it has happened), but because I think that most meals turn out best when you’re cooking for some friends.
I wrote at the beginning of the year that I was “fascinated by why we eat what we eat, and why we crave certain foods at certain times.” And after a year of writing about food, I have a better understanding of that now. Food is important to us all because it connects us to each other and to the world around us. There is nothing like breaking bread with friends (especially if you’ve baked it yourself), and making a dish that can take you thousands of miles away in your mind.
It’s friends and family that show us the value of food in our lives. I was lucky enough to inherit two very distinct culinary traditions – Eastern European Jewish and Puerto Rican – with brilliant home cooks on both sides to teach me that these foods are a vital part of who I am. I’ve also been part of some amazingly talented and enthusiastic food communities here at McGill. In first year, some friends and I formed a small supper club where I learned to push myself to try new things in the kitchen, and where I watched food bring people together. Working as a floor fellow these past two years has helped me realize just how much both Bishop Mountain Hall and the MORE Houses are unique culinary contexts that bring people together and build lasting friendships.
I guess my take-away message for this last food ramble is this: cook for other people. Embrace your cravings. Don’t be afraid of new ingredients, and if you are, cook with a brave, reassuring friend. Buy a cool cookbook and try every recipe. Push yourself in the kitchen and taste the results.