The Essential Ingredient: Love

2013-04-19 08:39

Melissa Baird, writer, food lover and communications strategist ponders one of the natural wonders of the world; the sense of taste and what it means to put love first in all things – starting with food.

Comfort food means something different for each individual but what is commonly shared are the quality of the memories a meal cooked and served with love evokes. They are never to be forgotten and continually abundant. Mine is my granny’s lovingly cooked casseroles, served with perfect vegetables. Or her lovingly prepared whole wheat bread sandwiches that my little fingers would clutch and savour.  She cooked and prepared food in a tiny kitchenette, on a single hot plate in her bachelor flat, as she lived the last days of her colourful life. I think of her every time I cook buttery scrambled ‘happy chicken’ eggs, just textured enough to melt in my mouth or remember to eat my greens and lots of them.

Making wonderful food is a process akin to alchemy beginning with quality ingredients. For every recipe however there is  the option to add a generous splash of a fundamental ingredient that is lacking fast food menus, food giants’ balance sheets and pro-GMO scientific reports, that ingredient is  Love.

The wonderful news is there are a growing number of farmers who are putting their passion and care on a level equal to that of the myriad skills required to farm successfully. They are the unsung heroes who are recreating paths towards a more conscious relationship with food, the ones who eschew factory farming and violent chemical manipulation of their crops. These farmers are bringing to market produce that tastes heavenly because it is made with their love.

Closer to town, food gardeners are actively growing healthy vegetables that can feed families living on the breadline. Food security is not a halcyon vision; community and environmental rehabilitation is all possible by growing vegetable gardens.

Our relationship with food is meant to be a nourishing, enlivening one. We are caught in an economic maelstrom of disproportionate imbalance – the scales have tipped. Food – like the weather - has become a topic of national and international significance. Historically the greatest revolutions have been born out of hunger. It need not be a repetitive pattern; the solutions are being practised every day as more and more people begin growing their own produce. The tasty and nourishing reward  is the beginning of a life-long, expansive love affair with food that can be trusted.

I am an idealist shuttered by pragmaticism. I was raised knowing what it meant to be stomach gnawingly hungry. This is why I got to truly appreciate the simplest of ingredients cooked with care. I developed a taste for the profane when it came to food laden with chemicals or that was sloppily prepared. My understanding of food was that it was precious, not easily come by and deserving of reverence when it was presented and there to enjoy. I knew where my food came from. It came from the hands of my grandmother and she knew all there was to know about what made it good, and how to create deliciously magical abundance out of a single potato and an egg.

The economists and politicians and activists are arguing how to mitigate resource depletion, carbon emissions, mass population growth and environmental destruction. The focus on power and economic  projections is all consuming. Natural capital is becoming a significant factor in realigning the true cost of our food and commerce. What is missing in the equations however  is the only essential natural capital item that has the power to change a heart forever, able to inspire random acts of kindness and bring laughter to the most starved soul.  As the arguments continue and solutions for food security in a changing climate are sought at the foundation of all of it is the productivity of the food chain and the seven billion people who need to be fed.

And loved.

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