Food. There are so many aspects to it that an entire encyclopedia could be written on it. For many cultures food is more than what we ingest. In the introduction of his book "Food Energetics", Steve Gagne', an author that explored food interconnection with archeology, anthropology, written and oral traditions of myths and legends, argues that food may be very well be strongest cultural thread linking traditional peoples to their ancient past.
In my video documentary #whatsfood I explore what food means to people and the answers project their culture as well as their day to day experience with what feed their body, soul and spirits. You'll hear answers from "steak and fries" to "life" to "community". To me Food is anything that makes me feel fed and satisfied, in balance with life. In that definition I include culture, life style, and emotional being. I used a capital F to differentiate it from the all the other food we normally think about. This concept and thinking is not revolutionary at all and it is something that very old civilizations and still some cultures today have known for a long time. In Italy, my home country, people still religiously sit down and focus on food and company, merging together food for mind, body and spirit all in one experience. If western traditional science has for the last couple of centuries ignored food as an element of life and healing, now new evidence in the field of science is proving many of the old myths and traditions that ancient oriental medicine considered truth for millennia. Sciences like epigenetic, neurogastroenterology, food energetics, and even food science (which deals mainly with food production strategies) are at the forefront of a new story to be told. Science is starting to understand that food really breaks down in your body to then become you, and that your gut is not only a big tank for the fuel, but it's really also the receptacle and processor of all our emotions and behavioral patterns.
As a reflection of that and of the diabesity epidemic, people is waking up to a long sleep; to the most educated food is becoming more and more something to be attentive about, not just an afterthought to get our bodies fuel in the form of calories, proteins and carbohydrates. For the first time since the modernization of our kitchens, we are thinking of going back to basic, and for the first time we also find it greatly challenging for a number of reasons. When it's not affected at home by our own family, our definition of food is affected by the media: there is an entertaining factor in the modern every day food tale. Chefs and normal people fight for the most creative dish, but get "chopped" if they can't please the judges or the viewers. Creations seem to be divided mainly in two categories: extremely healthy, or extremely sensational. Hence, intimidation arises very quickly for those who weren't lucky enough to be raised watching their parents cooking their own culturally traditional dishes. And even for those, including me, the world of information quickly work to bend our perception of what we should be eating vs what's fashionable and trendy to see on our plates.
So what is Food really? It's definitely something that each of us has a different definition for. The Institute for Psycology of Eating's blog, a place where nutritional psychology is taught, recently published an interesting blog post where it is stated:
"A woman wanting to lose weight might see calories and fat. She’d respond favorably to the salad or chicken but would view the pasta with fear. An athlete trying to gain muscle mass might look at the same meal and see protein. She’d focus on the chicken and look past the other foods. A pure vegetarian could see the distasteful sight of a dead animal and wouldn’t touch anything on the plate. A scientist studying nutrient content in food would see a collection of chemicals."
Joshua Reosenthal at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, teaches students that ingesting super healthy food with an unhealthy mind will override its nutrients value, and Peter Mandel, founder of the Esogetic Holistic Medicine built a whole lifetime career and healing medicine around the concept that matter follows mind. After wandering the Italian countryside last summer to film the gastro-documentary Car to Farm, I couldn't stop thinking that most of us spend our existence looking for sustenance more than survival, and complete body/mind/spirit satisfaction more than just a sense of physical fulfillment. Then isn't logical to think of food as a balance between what we eat, experience and feel at the kitchen table but also at work, and within our relationships with the world surrounding us?
Most of us spend our days thinking that the best food comes from our table, but the truth is that hunting for food at the local produce for the best seasonal and naturally raised food at the local stand is as good as looking for the best personal relationships that nourishes our soul, the best music that nourishes our senses, the best local community of people that fulfills our need for feeling part of a bigger sense of self.
When people ask me what is the best food to be consumed, I often answer with the quick and thought-provoking: "whatever feels good for you". And if you practiced long enough the art of listening, then the answers will flow in to you.
So, what is your definition of food ?
Mauro is the founder of online food magazine Don't Stop Eating. He also is a board certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Esogetic Colorpuncture therapist. Mauro offers a 6-month coaching program called STEP ONE, and he promotes living and doing what we love best. Mauro is also an Ambassador at Live In the Grey, which promotes living and doing what we love best.