Food Ritual 2: Inclusion and Exclusion

WEDDING

Food is a means of including and excluding people.  The most inclusive groups of people tend to have the most liberal tastes in food.  Everyone is welcome at the table, and you are welcome to serve any food you like.

Jewish Rabbis in middle age Europe fought a constant battle to hold the faithful in their religion.  Young people who fraternised with Christians were at risk of marrying out.  So the Rabbis reinforced observance of the kosher laws to keep their congregations intact.  If you cannot eat with people, you do not keep company with them.

The Spanish inquisition saw this also.  When ex-Jews converted to Catholicism the church in Spain monitored their food consumption.   If they did not roast a leg of pork from time to time they risked being accused of back-sliding.

So you can be included, or excluded from a “tribe” by the food you eat.  Kosher, Halal, Vegetarian, Vegan, Fruitarian, Pescatarian, South-Beach, Atkins, Weightwatchers.

In societies with “untouchable” castes, there are strict rules guiding who sits at what table.  In societies where food is eaten with the right hand, as in many Arabic countries, if a thief has his right hand removed, it is a far more dreadful punishment than the loss of the limb.  He is now excluded from dining with other people.  He must eat alone.  He is banished from the table.

An invitation to the table is an inclusion in society.  In the middle ages in Europe you could tell the status of a person by where they sat in the Lords hall, what foods they were permitted to eat, what cloth they were permitted to wear, in which colours, right down to what type of bird they could hunt with.

It was considered a great sin and shame to breach the laws of hospitality.  A guest under your roof must be fed.  The poor regularly appeared at the homes of the wealthy to beg alms from a feast, relying on the shame factor of the host if they were sent away hungry.

Stories abounded of mean minded hosts or their stewards, who would refuse to feed the poor, or charge them a fee for the table leftovers.

In one story from Middle Age Ireland a man starved himself to death on the doorstep of his enemy, to condemn his enemy to a lifetime of shame for permitting a guest to die on his threshold.

It is very important, to have a place in society, to eat with others.  In modern western society a lot of old people end up living on their own.  Volunteers give their time and effort to deliver Meals on Wheels to these people.  But it would be better to deliver the person to the meal, than the meal to the person.

Dinner Guest: Me   by Langston Hughes

I know I am
The Negro Problem
Being wined and dined,
Answering the usual questions
That come to white mind
Which seeks demurely
To Probe in polite way
The why and wherewithal
Of darkness U.S.A.–
Wondering how things got this way
In current democratic night,
Murmuring gently
Over fraises du bois,
“I’m so ashamed of being white.”

The lobster is delicious,
The wine divine,
And center of attention
At the damask table, mine.
To be a Problem on
Park Avenue at eight
Is not so bad.
Solutions to the Problem,
Of course, wait.

Five foods you should never eat

Image

The internet is filled with ads and articles telling us the five foods you should never eat.  There are three general commonalities in the five foods you should not eat.  They are white, they are full of sugar or they are highly processed (which means they are full of sugar or full of salt).

Here are my rules for a happy and healthy  eating life:

  1.  The longer it takes the healthier it is.  A four hour casserole is hands down healthier than a freezer to microwave meal.  The casserole may contain red meat and saturated fats such as lard or butter.  But it will have not a fraction of the salt, carbohydrates, sugars and strange chemicals you get in processed foods.
  2. If you make it yourself it will be healthier, tastier and you will eat less.
  3. You can get full, but you can’t get fat on salad.  You can get fat on buckets of mayonnaise, so eat salad with vinaigrette– Olive Oil, Vinegar, Mustard, Sugar.  Make it yourself and avoid all the processed crap.  Just one other thing:  Pasta is not salad!
  4. Coloured food is better.  Red, green, yellow, purple, eat lots of tomatoes, peppers, chilies, onions, garlic, sprouts, salad, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, celery, herbs, courgettes, squashes, go for it big time.  You will get full but you won’t get fat, unless you smother it in cheese sauce.
  5. Brown food is not great – sausage rolls, buns, fried food, deep fried food, breaded anything.  White food is even worse.   Ease up on pasta, rice, potatoes (eat as many sweet potatoes as you like), white bread, sugar and salt.
  6. Do not eat diet food.  It is only low in fat because it is full of sugar.  It is highly processed and the texture probably comes from the slime you get on rotting cabbages (really true).
  7. Eat fat.  Fat does not make you fat.  Sugar makes you fat. (Watch those sugary drinks)
  8. Eat broadly and in moderation.  Eat a little of a lot of different things and leave the table before you are full.
  9. Eat slowly.  Chew properly and savour every bite.  If you eat too fast you cannot follow rule 8 because your brain does not know how full you are.  If you are inclined to eat fast, then go to rule 3 and start every meal with a large salad.
  10. Enjoy food in a civilized manner.  Sit at a table with a knife and fork and plate, surrounded by other people.

Of course the other side of eating is exercise.  If you get off your ass you can eat as much as you want.  When did you see a fat postman?

Now, 5 things you really should never eat….

  1. Don’t eat your hat.
  2. Don’t eat humble pie.
  3. Don’t eat your words.
  4. Don’t eat your heart out.
  5. Swallow your pride, but never eat shit.

 

Italian Food : by Shel Silverstein

Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops–I think I split my jeani.