At some point, food became more about calories than community. That can change.
I spent the better part of my weekend standing behind a table. Granted, it was at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, where craft beer, gourmet samples, and delicious wine are ready for the taking. But, there I stood along with Kelly Sherrill, our Batch Charleston director, telling our story and that of our nonprofit partner in Charleston, The Green Heart Project.
Like most booths at trade shows and the like, you quickly realize you have about 14 seconds of someone's attention before their mind starts wandering to what's next. This time shortens as the day progresses and people are tired from walking and standing or buzzed from all the free booze (or both). So you learn to make a statement as quickly as possible in order to attract attention and keep the conversation going.
Batch was partnering with both Green Heart and the festival to produce a limited edition gift batch, full of tastes from the Artisan Market. We were selling these on site and all proceeds were be donated to support Green Heart's farm-to-school work (a limited number of these remain for sale online). And so time and again, all weekend, I got to tell stories about food: about the food in the box, about the food Green Heart helps grow, and about the food that brings us all together.
Food, it seems, has more and more been equated with fuel. I'll admit that on my busiest days, this is my outlook. Nutrients in, energy out. Eat standing up, while emailing, while driving - it doesn't matter. The point is to consume so as to expend and then repeat the process as needed. But all this does is separate food from it's true life giving benefits - that of connection.
Hopefully, most of us have fond memories of food. The scents that greeted us as something was baking in the oven when we came home from college for the holidays. Shared dinners and recaps of our days gathered around a kitchen table with family. Friends getting together for a drink or some snacks to catch up after too many years. Traditions like Sunday suppers, summer cookouts, and road trip restaurant pit stops. Each of these instances isn't just about what's being eaten. It's about what else is happening because something is being eaten.
I imagine this is what happens when Green Heart connects a kid to the wonder of local food. Their work isn't just to convince a youngster that he or she can get more quality nutrients for their growing bodies. It's to connect them with the land that produces local food, the community that it takes to plant and harvest a garden, and the relief and joy that comes from hard work - the fruits of which happen to be pleasantly edible.
Here's my favorite picture from the weekend. Pictured are Drew Harrison, Executive Director of The Green Heart Project, and Kelly Timmons, of Granna's Gourmet. Kelly's pickled okra is in our commemorative batch and she believes in what is happening when it comes to local food. Soon, when it's season, Granna's may be pickling some of the okra the students are growing. The connection continues.
Life speeds up and sometimes, food does need to be about consumption and calories. But we're better when we can make food about community and connection. If you feel lost in this dynamic and struggle to find a place where food can be about more than fuel, you're not lost.
You just haven't made it to the table yet. But we've saved a seat for you.
Come; let's eat.