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The Physical, Emotional, Historical Power of Food

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| July 27, 2022

You may just end up looking at your food in an entirely new light after we examine the following food stories.

There is power in food. 

There is power in the way it can control our physical actions. There is power in the way it manipulates us emotionally. There is power in the way that it tells deeply compelling stories of our history as people. There is also power in the way it sustains us, brings us joy and helps us express love to another person. 

You may just end up looking at your food in an entirely new light after we examine the following food narratives. Below we explore the power that food has over each author and the themes that emerge from these five food stories.

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Honoring the (Sometimes Messy) Origins of Our Food

In “One Grain at a Time: Learning the History of Southern Food,” author Palmetto Bug confronts the racist history of some of the American South’s most iconic foods.

While acknowledging the rich food culture that exists in the South, the author (a white Southerner) admits to being ignorant to the true origins of some of the region’s most archetypal dishes, such as shrimp and grits and fried chicken.

In learning how to authentically cook some of the recipes she had grown up enjoying at home, she arrives at a true understanding of the origins of Southern food, starting with grits.

Upon learning that the origins of many of the American South’s staples can be traced back to enslaved people of West Africa and their food allowances, the author notes:

“People stand only to gain from understanding the painful and brutal history of the food they eat. The persistence of these dishes mirrors the persistence and perseverance of enslaved people, who wouldn’t allow their traditions or their spirits to be crushed by the weight of those who made them their property.”

Everything we eat has an origin story that can tell us so much about the political, sociological and psychological forces at play.

Taking the time to learn about the history of some of your favorite dishes honors those who brought these dishes to life and allows us to remember our past (no matter how uncomfortable it may be).

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Food Can Be the Ultimate Gesture of Love

One of our food essay authors was awakened to the realization that unlike the terrible meals of her childhood, cooking and eating with those you love can be one of the truest forms of expressing love.

In “I Married Into an Italian Family: Here’s What They Taught Me About Food,” Original Cowgirl describes growing up with family meals that were filled with overcooked vegetables and a side of heavy resentment.

In college, she learned the joy that can come from creating a really good meal and eating it with friends and family. Not only did she leave the table with a full stomach but also with a full heart.

But she didn’t truly understand the simple beauty that comes from a distraction-free family dinner until she began savoring multi-course dinners with her then-boyfriend’s large Italian family and how sharing food with a community allows us to slow down, talk, explore culture and grow as humans. 

Now married with children of her own, she hopes that her “sons will also come to appreciate their extended family’s amazing dinnertimes and recognize them for what they are: the ultimate gesture of love.

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The Physical (and Emotional) Impact of Healthy Eating

Food as fuel

In “My Food Addiction Success Story: How I Tamed My Eating Habits,” author Boomer Baby writes about her lifelong obsession with food.

She acknowledges that her food addiction is something she developed as a child growing up in a family that was overly obsessed with food. She grew up equating food with love, meaning comfort food was the ultimate expression of love for her.

Unfortunately, the habit of hiding and binging on junk food she developed as a little girl continued well into her adult years until finally, she was forced to confront the ugly truth: 

“One morning as I was putting together a grocery list and dreaming of the delectable meals I would prepare, my husband squeezed my hand and told me to stop. Stop cooking. Stop obsessing. Stop searching for love and acceptance through food.”

It was then that she realized she needed to fundamentally change her perspective on food. Instead of looking at food as love in itself, food could be made with love, and more importantly, food was fuel for a healthy, thriving body.

By learning the fundamentals of nutrition, the author saw food in a new light and realized that rather than eating mindlessly to fill a hole in her soul, she could eat mindfully and feed her body and soul in a healthy way.

Food as medicine

Another one of our authors also learned the power of a nutritious diet and the role it has in the body’s overall well-being in her own journey to health.

In “The Secret to My Health Was at the Grocery Store, Not the Doctor’s Office,” author PinkyRose shares the efforts she went to looking for a treatment that would alleviate the pain she experienced from psoriasis.

Unfortunately, she learned that Western medicine has its limitations, including a host of complications and life-threatening side effects that were associated with her treatment options, whereas the philosophy of Eastern nutrition is about using food as a means to achieve balance and harmony within the body.

By learning more about different philosophies for food intake, and a difficult and extremely challenging elimination diet, our author arrived at improved physical and emotional health, including no more psoriasis symptoms.

“Food-as-medicine was never an avenue considered by the three dermatologists I saw before I sought other nontraditional, non-Western avenues of care. They never once asked about my diet, a pillar of health that likely has a greater impact on curing—and preventing—disease than any modern remedy we have at our disposal.”

Both authors came to realize, in their own way, on their own personal journeys, the importance and the critical role food plays in our overall health and well-being. If we treat our bodies well and feed them nutritiously and mindfully, our bodies will respond in kind.

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The Power of Growing Your Own Food

In this final food narrative, we learn about the power (and sorrow) that comes from growing your own food.

In “Gardening in Alaska Is Not Easy: I Learned the Hard Way,” the author shares the lessons she learned while attempting to cultivate a vegetable garden in the Last Frontier and the ways in which growing food is an integral component of how and why humans connect to nature.

“Growing and eating food—from seed to belly, completing the cycle—brings much satisfaction,” she says.

Growing food is much more than just plopping seeds into the ground; it’s about tilling the land, appreciating the soil, understanding the science behind composting, starting seeds indoors and tending to them with love every day. 

For a short while, her efforts and bounty proved to be plentiful. “I had a green thumb, and I was proud of it,” she says. 

Then one morning, she walked out to find her beloved garden had been decimated, victim to a moose. In planting and cultivating her beloved garden and then losing it so fiercely, the author learned the power that comes from pouring your heart and soul into growing your own food and the visceral pain of losing her vegetables.

She also learned the third and most important lesson when it comes to gardening in Alaska: All fences should be high and electric.

Conclusion

James Beard once said, “​​Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

Food is something we all need to survive and thrive, but it’s also one of the most common ways in which people express their love to one another. 

Beyond sustaining life, food carries its own power in the way it can elicit memories, inspire conversation, bring people together and teach us about ourselves. 

We hope the lessons from each of the five food essays will help you pause and think about your own personal relationship with food. If you’re looking for more inspiration, more lessons on life or simply more stories about food, explore more of the narratives from the Doe.

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