On Food and Language

Humans have grown and evolved as a species dependent on communication. We live in communities for survival, we disseminate information to continue the growth of the mind, we raise each other’s children and support each others elderly. This need for interaction, which is as critical to our needs as food and water, spurred the creation of language. Communities across the globe generated their own language to communicate ranging from verbal speech common to the most widely spoken languages of the world (English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.), auditory production of sounds like clicking heard in languages such and Xhosa, physical movement seen in sign language, and what is regarded as the universal language of mathematics. A much less commonly associated form of communication (and my personal favorite) is food.

Be welcome: warm tea and fresh bread

I’m suffering: Strong alcohol, lack of food, excess of food

Empathy: Lasagna, casserole, fresh pastry

Apathy: Stale donuts, supermarket fruit tray

I love you: simple eggs and toast, hand made pasta with centuries old recipe for marinara, tastes of something new, exotic spices, home nurtured herbs

These are just a few translations for thousands of expressions and ones I’m most familiar with. Every place on Earth with people on it has their own version that is both unique and similar.

Food is nuanced, between ingredients, preparation, presentation, you can express a vast range of emotion. You can show new ideas and innovation, history and tradition. Entire cultural messages can be placed on display through a meal. Food is both a physiological necessity and a creative outlet; a record of our past and a testament to our future. A way to experience a new culture without the necessity of years of studying language and history. Too often in our high speed society and production driven mindset we forget the importance and significance of the food we put into our bodies and share with others.

As an individual born in Texas, with parents from Mexico and Canada, grandparents from Italy, and Lebanon, ancestors ranging across the globe from Spain, Mongolia, Northern Africa, and Western Europe.. I implore you.. from one human to another.. take a moment to cook something for someone you care about. Pause before your next meal and think of the history behind what brought that piece of food to your lips. Ask someone for their favorite recipe.

Be present, try something new, enjoy it, bon appétit.

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