My grandmother, or “baka” as her grandkids called her, grew up during the Great Depression and went through rough and trying times during WWII. When she came back to her small village after the war, she had nothing. No family by her side, no money, no food. But all was not lost. She was able to take back possession of her family home, which had been pillaged during the war, and her neighbours came together to help each other out how ever they could. So, baka rebuilt her life starting with planting a few seeds in her garden. These seeds marked a new beginning for her.
Growing up on a farm, baka had a respect for food and understood how much effort and care was required to produce it. Going through food scarcities during the war and afterward, this respect deepened. She knew the true meaning of hunger. This period of famine left an indelible mark on her psyche. A mark she strived to express to her grandkids. Baka taught us to respect food.
"Nowadays, the problem is too much food leading to issues like overeating and food waste."
I’m sure your grandparents (or for some of you it may be parents or great-grandparents) spoke about having no food during the 1930s and 40s too. For us though, it’s hard to imagine what being very hungry feels like since we live in a time of abundance. Nowadays, the problem is too much food leading to issues like overeating and food waste. While they attempted to impart a respect for food, in many ways we’ve allowed this respect to slip away from us. We’ve disconnected ourselves from the essence of food.
"We’ve disconnected ourselves from the essence of food."
In my case, it took me years after my grandmother’s passing to recall all the things she taught me as a kid and to fully grasp what she meant by respect and appreciation for food. I suppose I had to go through the disconnection to realize I needed to reconnect.
One way I disconnected was through the overconsumption of processed/junk food. Baka would prepare a scratch-made meal for us and I’d turn up my nose to it and ask for Kraft Dinner instead. My taste buds and brain were fooled and couldn’t tell the difference between powdered cheese substance versus real aged cheddar.
I’d watch cooking shows that would tout using the best quality ingredients possible and I didn’t really know what that meant. I figured if you could cook well, you could make up for any ingredient quality issues (just add more salt, spices, sugar, or oil!). I lost touch with what a real tomato should taste like. What real butter should taste like.
"We can be budget-minded and still eat very well. We all deserve to eat well."
Tied to this was the whole bargain mentality. Price always trumped quality for me when it came to food. I de-valued food in a sense. There was a mistrust of the food producers there too. I believed all companies that charged more were being greedy and anyone who paid more was being duped. While there are companies whose main goal is profit-seeking, there are many others who care about the food and strive to achieve the best quality possible. They take pride in it. We can be budget-minded and still eat very well. We all deserve to eat well no matter how much money we have. Choose to buy the best quality food you can afford. I couldn’t see this all back then.
"I was stressed out about food. I didn’t know what to eat, when to eat, or even if I wanted to eat."
I also saw food as a burden. Crippling digestive issues combined with blood sugar imbalances, a hectic lifestyle, and nutrition misinformation left me stressed out about food. I didn’t know what to eat, when to eat, or even if I wanted to eat. I had no clue about what my body wanted or needed. Emotions and external factors dictated what I chose to eat.
"I started making food choices based on these internal cues."
After a while, I trained myself to listen to my body and what it needs. I started making food choices based on these internal cues. Then the flood of memories came back to me of my grandmother and her respect for food. The seeds of appreciation and gratitude toward food grew inside of me. These seeds marked a new beginning for me.
My family mentions baka often. We talk about all the lessons she taught us. The wise simple words she spoke to us about being grateful for the food we’ve been blessed with. She knew that we didn’t completely get what she was saying, but she kept saying it anyway. She had the faith that one day we would understand and impart this awareness to others. I like to believe that she knows that day has come.
Do you agree with my feeling that we’ve collectively developed a lack of respect toward food? Share your feelings and opinions with me below.