Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot about food for most of the last 29 years, but it’s on my mind today because I’m participating in a roundtable conversation about eating at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) next Wednesday, Oct. 16 to coincide with World Food Day.
Titled “Germinating Conversations: Eating Together at the Table,” the event will also feature Ron Krahn, a third-generation grain farmer from Rivers, MB; Terry Mierau, an opera singer-turned-chicken farmer from Neubergthal, MB; Tina Hildebrand, a cattle farmer from the Pembina Valley; Deborah Martin Koop, Program Director for Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba; Melanie Unger, Spiritual Life Facilitator from CMU; and Matthew Dueck, a CMU student, urban farmer, and avid hunter.
The seven us will have a conversation arising from the following questions: What do we eat when we are together? Who grows it? How did it get to our table? What was the impact on the land? Does it nourish? Is there enough? Does it taste good? Does any of this matter? How might these questions be informed by our faith?
The event starts at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and there will be an opportunity for people who come to the event to share their own comments and ask their own questions. You can find out more information on CMU’s website, or by visiting the event’s Facebook page.
I was asked to be a part of this conversation last week, and I immediately thought of an article I wrote for Geez Magazine‘s food issue six years ago, titled “That’s what I get.” You can read it below.
I imagine what I have to say next Wednesday will revolve around how my thoughts have changed over the last two years from the thoughts reflected in the Geez article.
That’s what I get
I have eaten it since I was a little boy. My mother cooked healthier meals during the week, but for lunch on Saturdays it was always Mac and Cheese, or, as many people call it, Kraft Dinner.
I came to enjoy the variety of ways I could eat it: with ketchup, without ketchup, with wieners, without wieners, with ketchup and wieners, with wieners but without ketchup, with ketchup but without wieners. The combinations seemed endless.
When I got to my third year of university, I was living on my own and I could no longer depend on my mother’s regular cooking or the university’s meal plan. Cooking became the sort of thing I always intended to do but never got around to. Between a full course load, extracurricular activities and part-time work, preparing anything more complicated than Kraft Dinner seemed like a waste of time. More than once, I made two boxes at lunch so I could eat the leftovers for supper.
I once heard of some students who ate nothing but Mac and Cheese for an entire year. I think they may have gotten scurvy. But secretly, I’ve always admired them, and wanted to try it myself. I don’t think I could make it, though. After a few days I’m pretty sure my stomach would complain and ask: “Where’s the frozen pizza? Where are the hamburgers?” So I’m content to eat it the usual three times a week.
I have graduated from university now and have a lot more time on my hands, but my diet hasn’t really changed. The will to cook is weak, and the call of Kraft Dinner is strong. Boil the water, cook the noodles, drain the water, add the cheese, some margarine and milk, and stir. I take solace in the routine, and at this point, it’s all muscle memory. Ten minutes and it’s done. Who could argue with that?
I’ve never really thought about where the macaroni and the cheese – or any of my food, for that matter – come from. It just hasn’t happened. The food’s there when I want it, and that’s good enough for me. The only questions in my mind revolve around ketchup and wiener options.
Some may call Mac and Cheese “shit food,” but that’s what I get for being a shitty cook. So God bless this bright orange cheese powder and these processed white noodles to the nourishment of my body.
Forever and ever.