“Feeling rushed is… an important component of our economy; it causes people to buy more, pay, try more things and more means to compensate for the stress, or at least to alleviate the anxiety. It also makes us work harder and longer — and therefore leave ourselves less time… We eat out or buy ready-prepared food to eat at home in order to save time, but also — and more insidiously — because we feel we have no time to do otherwise. Many of us never really learn to cook, and therefore cooking remains not only time-consuming but unrewarding.” (Margaret Visser in Huntley, page 175)
I came across this quote from Margaret Visser in Rebecca Huntley’s book Eating Between the Lines: food & equality in Australia.
I’ve also recently been reading Charlotte Wood’s Love & Hunger, and the contrast between this general observation of society and Wood’s own experiences with cooking is stark.
“At the same time as I am freed from the past & the future [when cooking]… in some subtle but definite way I am also connected, at least once in every mealtime, to a cycle of life greater and more permanent than my own.” (Love & Hunger, page 6)
For Wood, not only is cooking a way of slowing down that rushed feeling, but it’s a way of being aware of the life of the rest of the world. My own experience of cooking—and especially of cooking food that I’ve grown myself—is similar. Feeling disconnected, I think, is a few steps down the path towards feeling isolated. It saddens me to think that some people don’t have that sense of connection with other living things, at least some of the time, when they cook.
I’m aware of how namby-pamby that might sound in writing. But while a sense of separate self is important for human wellbeing, so is a sense of belonging somewhere. Food, surely, is one of the simplest ways of seeing that we belong somewhere—that we exist within a web of complicated relationships (in nature or otherwise).
The contrast between these two books, especially read in succession, the way that I have read them, really highlights the experiences people have of feeling so disconnected on such a basic level. I’m also making my way slowly through the government’s green paper for the development of a National Food Plan, and comparing it to similar approaches in the UK and Canada. Unfortunately, it’s mainly making me nervous.
On a positive note though, in response to the green paper, there are moves to make a People’s Food Plan, which hopefully will bring social and environmental concerns to the fore—or at least put them on equal terms with economic concerns. It’ll be interesting to see what shape the plan takes.