Stewardship of Food

February 5, 2018

My favorite memory of a meal was going to a restaurant in New York City in December 2009 named Red Bamboo. It was located in downtown Manhattan. I attended this restaurant on a visit with my sister as she was living in New York at the time. She had been constantly talking about this vegan restaurant that I had to try that she was simply in love with. With us both being vegetarians, it was something I was greatly looking forward to. I remember the day we went having been a very long and exhausting day. I not only had attended dance rehearsal with my sister but also made time to fit in lots of various New York City tourists attractions. By the time we finally made it to dinner, we were both famished. Once we finally entered the restaurant, I remember being over come with wonderful aromas of the difference spices and seasonings that were in the air. I immediately knew that I was going to enjoy whatever dish I decided to order.

Upon looking over the menu, I saw there was a large assortment of both vegan and vegetarian Southern Comfort food dishes. I was so excited, I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to get. I ended up settling on the BBQ ribs. Having been a vegetarian since 2002, it had been a very long time since I had anything barbequed, let alone ribs.   I knew it was the best dish for me. The ribs came with flavorful mashed potatoes and gravy, snow peas, broccoli, and carrots. I distinctly remember the level of excitement I had once the plate was placed in front of me and I took my first bite. The taste of the barbeque sauce will forever be etched into my memory, as it was the best tasting sauce I have ever had to this day. It was sweet and spicy, as well as tangy and zesty. All the flavors went together so well and made the meal so delectable. The mashed potatoes were perfectly seasoned and had the perfect amount of creaminess to them. The broccoli was very crisp and had a great butter sauce to pour over it. All of the sides complimented the meal because it offered a little sweet to go with the savory. It could be the fact, that neither my sister and I had eaten that day, but it was by far one of the tastiest meals I have ever indulged in. Vegan ribs

As I previously mentioned, I have been a vegetarian since 2002. It has been a part of how I identify myself. Growing up, I never cared to eat meat as I was constantly picking it out of my food and ordering dishes without it ever since I can remember. What sealed my fate was watching a PETA video about the slaughtering of pigs in masses that forced me to make the decision and become vegetarian. It is because of this identity that I take my food choices so seriously. I am very careful about what I eat and where it comes from. I always try to do my research before I purchase groceries from stores in which I’ve never patronized before. I have made it a priority to solely eat organic foods. I also make every effort to prepare and cook my own meals as opposed to eating out, though there are a few exceptions. It’s important to me that I am in control of what goes into my body, and by preparing my own meals, I get to have complete autonomy.Vegetarian.png

This meal was important to me because I was able to indulge in and eat comfort foods that typically aren’t available to vegetarians. Being able to eat barbecued ribs was something I hadn’t done since the age of 12. Although I was eating a meat substitute, called seitan, it still felt like I was eating such a normal dish that carnivores are able to enjoy on a regular basis. Back in 2009, there weren’t tons of vegetarian dishes available that resembled everyday American comfort food. Finding this restaurant, and this dish by association, made me feel apart of the culture in which I had grown up. In the TED Talk. Jenny Lee says “If our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie, you should ask yourself: how often do you eat apple pie versus how often do you eat Chinese food?” (Lee)

The same principle can be applied when it comes to southern comfort food. Southern comfort food is a staple in many homes across the United States and, as its name suggest, is eaten and used to feel comfort. Across America, the category of “southern comfort food” is easily identified as fried chicken, mac and cheese, barbecued ribs and chicken, mashed potatoes, ice cream, cobbler, and more. Vegetarian comfort food wasn’t easy to come by in 2009, as the very phrase seems to be an oxymoron. Being able to have the meal of barbecued vegan ribs was an acknowledgement of American culture that permeates throughout the country. Using food as a means to comfort oneself is the very idea of comfort food and having that meal was something that I will also be glad to say that was able to partake in.

In the Rule of St. Benedict, meals are viewed as a sacred time where everyone is joined together to share and partake in the meals together. Children and elders are shown a kindness and are exempt from a majority of the rules that are set forth. Meals are to be enjoyed in silence with the exception of the reader, whose job is to read the daily readings of the scripture and prayer. Everyone is to partake in meals together and enjoy the company and fellowship of others. The community sees meals as a necessity but should not be overindulged, resulting in gluttonous behavior. The Rule of St. Benedict warns, “Above all things, however, over-indulgence must be avoided and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion; for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character as over-indulgence according to Our Lord’s words, “See to it that your hearts be not burdened with over-indulgence” (Luke 21:34).” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 39) The community is expected to only eat what is necessary to sustain normal activity but should refrain from over indulgence as it is not pleasing to the Lord, and is not the behavior of a Christian.

Doyle, Leonard. OSB. Rule of Benedict. Text, English. Table of Contents, http://www.osb.org/rb/text/toc.html.

Lee, Jennifer. “The Hunt for General Tso.” TED. July 2008. Lecture.

Growing up, I distinctly remember my mother always cooking each and every meal that my family made. She was a stay-at-home mom up until I was in second grade. Even then, my mother would still cook us breakfast and dinner everyday. At school, I would eat the school lunch that was provided. I remember never quite being a fan of the various dishes they would serve us. Some foods were unrecognizable despite what they claimed to be, such as lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and even chicken tenders. The packaging, smell, and appearance of each dish always turned me off and never was something I was able to stomach. After complaining to my mother for an extended period of time, she finally allowed me to start bringing my own lunch to school. I would excitedly prepare my own lunch each night before school the next day. As I grew older, I began experimenting with different dishes and would always answer questions from my classmate as to why I just didn’t eat the lunch that was provided. The nutritional value of each meal was always something that concerned me. Because I was raised in an environment where we rarely ate anything other than home-cooked meals, I wasn’t used to not knowing every ingredient that was used in the dishes.

Both Food Justice and Laudato Si share a common connection on the globalization of communities. Food Justice describes the global influence in which major corporations determine food choices and its availability. Once these transformations occur, cultural connections to food are lost resulting in a “culturally decontextualized place.” (Gottlieb et al, 2010) Food in this regard is no longer connected to the place where the food has been grown and the consumer whom eats it. Similarly, Laudato Si describes the way in which the globalization of worldwide communities has the potential to degrade its cultural significance. “The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems.” (Francis, 2015) Due to the globalized economy, many developed and developing lands are being pressured to abandon the sanctity of their lands in order to make room for agricultural and mining expansion as a means to make way for industrialization of the land.globalization+of+food+in+the+USA

In Ann Cooper’s TED Talk, she discusses the importance of educating students about their food and what is considered healthy and nutritious. She also mentions the importance of educating students about regional food, food that is specific to the region in which kids live. (Cooper, 2007) So often, food is brought in from locations hundreds and thousands of miles away and chemicals and preservatives have to be added to them to make sure they stay fresh. By eating regional foods, individuals aren’t as subjected to these preservatives and are receiving the true nutritional values of the food. Cooper also mentions the consumption of antibiotics. By consuming these antibiotics, often found in animal protein, both children and adults alike have an increased risk of developing several illnesses including cancer and diabetes. It is also very crucial that we are paying attention to portion size when it comes food consumption. Due to the way in which the government commodifies food, large corporations are able to produce larger quantities for lower prices, making it easier to sell oversized beverages and double cheeseburgers for such a cheap price. (Cooper, 2007)

In Food Justice, Gottlieb discusses the establishment of the National School Lunch Act as a means to address the malnourishment of soldiers during WWI and WWII. As years passed, the school lunch program began to be shifted as a way to ensure limited integration of schools in the South. By doing so, limits were placed on federal spending and local and state governments controlled the program, thus deciding where to allocate funds for the programs. Under the Reagan administration, the school lunch program shifted to be seen as a program that went from “the nutrionally needy to the economically needy”. (Gottlieb, 2015) This led to school lunch programs being viewed as a welfare program for the economically disadvantaged and took away from supply students with nutritious meals.freelunch

In Sam Kass’s TED Talk, he discusses the importance of making sure children have access to food, especially breakfast so that they are able to be active participants and learners in their education. By providing children with breakfast, they will be more engaged, have better focus, and thrive in their educational endeavors all because they were provided with the nutrition to fuel their learning. (Kass, 2015) Kass also discusses the implementation of providing free school meals to all students, and not just those receiving government assistance, and removing the stigma that was often associated with it. By all students being given the same opportunity to have a meal at no cost, students no longer have the social-economic stigma attached to them and instead can focus on eating a healthy and balanced meal, as well as become active learners in their schools. Students who participated in this program showed an improvement in both reading and math test scores on standardized tests. Perhaps if more emphasis was placed on the nutritional aspects of meals and making sure each child received a proper breakfast before the start of school instruction, more children would have the opportunity to thrive and perform better academically. Read the rest of this entry »

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