This is actually a paper I wrote for an Anthropology class, I gave a presentation about the cultural significance of a favorite dish afterwhich we watched an episode of a PBS show entitled The meaning of food... I felt like I had some good insights, though perhaps the connection I made may seem a little strong. Anyway I just felt like sharing...
"After watching and discussing the episode of “ The Meaning of Food”, I have a newfound appreciation for its [food’s] effect on culture and life. The film had particular meaning to me because I happened to present my “Food Project” on the very same day. What I came to find out about my own attachments to food was reflected in the cases of the four different people in the film. After thinking on the depth of these attachments specifically: my own feelings about food, what I have come to learn about food and BYU-Hawaii students, and those of the people in the film; I have come to the conclusion that food can be a very spiritual matter.
While preparing my grandmother’s “ German Pancakes” for their presentation to the class, I realized that my hands were shaking. As I rolled each strip, I laughed at myself and then mulled over possible reasons why I should get so worked up. I am not usually unnerved by school presentations, oftentimes I even relish them, so I knew it was not the presenting that had me feeling jittery. As I examined my feelings, both in that moment and later in class, I tried to identify just what this particular food meant to me. What I came to realize was that this sentimentality for a certain dish was actually a complex and multi-faceted emotion. On the one hand preparing the pancakes, normally prepared by or with my mother, alone made me feel incredibly homesick. Flipping them in my little frying pan made me wonder if I would ever be as good a wife and mother as my mom is. Carrying them in my bread pan while riding my bike amused me, and seemed to connect for me two different “me’s” (the college me and the at home me). Finally I sat down and really thought about it and realized that it went even deeper than familial ties or an identity crisis, it was just this, a combination of the carnal and the divine. You see, on the one hand food is a necessity. It’s something our physical animalistic body needs, a craving or dependence which is distinctly mortal. Food=mortality. On the other hand food is a very spiritual thing. Smell, our sense which is most strongly tied to our memories brings on an onslaught of familiarity as we partake of a particular dish. Taste allows us to feel gratification. The combining of certain ingredients, in a certain way, in fact is in itself a showcase of our ability to create, something (aside from reproduction) that is distinctly human. Something that comes from within. In essence then the creation of a particular dish based on smell and taste and preference and our creative abilities is a sort of triumph over our mortality. Yes we need food, but what we choose to eat in order to fill that need is a choice. And that ability to choose is representative of our divine nature.
Aside from my own experiences, I believe that others have felt a similar complexity behind their attachments to food. Here at BYU-Hawaii for instance, the counseling center’s number one recommendation to alleviate homesickness is to make yourself a dish from back home. Foodfest is hugely popular with students, and everyone seems to get extremely involved in the process of making their own traditional dishes. Food projects for classes are often the most prepared for in an entire semester. The case of the Alaskan Native Americans certainly seems to support my claim. The tribe members have gone to such extreme lengths in order to keep their right to eat their cultural food. They even specifically describe the spirituality of both hunting and eating the whale. Such a spiritual connection to food is apparent in the Ancient Hawaiians’ tender care for their taro, as well as in the emotion evident in the little Texan boy’s victory. I strongly believe that our connections to food are deep. Perhaps even deep enough to represent the triumph of the spirit over the natural man."