I just picked up The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan off the bookshelf in the mango kitchen and it could not be more relevant. Within the first few pages, Pollan sheds light on the current state of extreme confusion and anxiety that most Americans now find themselves in when faced with the simple question of what to have for dinner. He breaks down the history and cause of this nation-wide eating disorder in a comprehensible and eye-opening manner. America, he explains, is a relatively new nation that is drawn from a wide variety of different immigrant populations, each of which has its own food culture. This melting-pot characteristic has allowed for this country to lack any single, strong, stable culinary tradition to guide us. As Pollan puts it, “Abundance of food in America complicates the whole problem of choice.” Like many people raised in American today, I was never exposed to deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating. So that is who and where I am currently: a culture-deprived American in search of tradition, ancient wisdom, and culinary origins, wondering whether the only solution is to abandon the American way of doing things and adopt another culture altogether.
Further thoughts and questions about culture…
If America is a culture of many cultures, then perhaps the celebration of diversity goes along with that. Is diversity worse than solidarity/singularity? Is abandoning/detaching/removing myself from American society due to over-abundance/confusion, to seek or adopt another culture/tradition even legitimate or genuine? I can’t help but wonder, if I was never exposed to or granted a culture around food, how do I obtain one? Or make up for what I lost?
So, what and where exactly is this food culture I seek? I mean you walk through New York City and you’re sure to see a handful of different cultures expressing themselves through a diverse array of cuisine, and that is food culture. What makes any one of the interwoven food cultures you experience when you step into the urban setting any different from the culture and traditions of say, the Hawaiian people? I am recognizing that I personally seek culture that is still heavily tied to the LAND, and for me I think that is the central component. If I can identify with a piece of land, learn what grows and thrives there, and what culture and traditions have existed there, perhaps that is the path to creating a food culture rooted in the land.
“Food chains link us, through what we eat, to the fertility of the earth and the energy of the sun.”
“We oversimplify nature’s complexities.”
“Our eating turns NATURE into CULTURE.”