By Paul Abromeit, Meal Sharing Marketing & Media Associate
“We crave food not for the necessity of it, or even for the taste, but for the feelings and the emotions that go with it…”
Why do we eat? Is it simply to nourish ourselves? Or is it to experience the many joys associated with food? Put in other words. Do we eat to live? Or do we live to eat?
The easy answer would follow the first line of logic. Without certain basic needs, men and women would not survive. And food is on that list. We have to eat. It’s not a question.
However, I would argue that food for nourishment and food for the sake of enjoyment are inseparable.
My interest in food as nourishment began late in my high school years, after my father passed away. Although he had always eaten fairly healthily, that traumatic event still got me thinking about how well I actually knew my body and the things I was putting into it.
I carried this mindset with me to college in Berkeley, California. As I found myself living for the first time in a place I did not know, surrounded by people I did not know, I quickly realized how very little I actually knew about myself, and not just my body; and so the desire to learn more about myself, both mentally and physically, became insatiable.
To my surprise, forcing myself to try new things and meet new people went hand in hand with my self-discovery. And in the smorgasbord that is Berkeley, trying new things and meeting new people usually meant trying new foods too (and yes, trying new drinks as well…it was college, after all).
Food became nourishment not only for my body but also for my mind and soul. It helped grow my relationships with others and quickly became a great source of enjoyment. So when I enrolled for a class entitled Edible Education, which was co-hosted and co-authored by food journalist Michael Pollan, my relationship with food was ready to take off to a whole new level. The discoveries seemed to be limitless, and my curiosity drove my behavior everywhere I went.
Any time I traveled to a new city, food was instantly the first thing that came to mind. What were the best places to eat, where were the city’s food markets, who else could I meet through my foodie adventures? Food played a large role in shaping my experience on the road. It was my accomplice; my confidant; my partner in crime. I even planned a whole Euro Trip that involved me visiting a bunch of indoor farms all across the UK and volunteering on a dairy farm in The Netherlands.
And then, out of nowhere, food and I had a falling out. Almost overnight, my stomach seemed to develop an averseness to anything delicious. Many of the foods I used to adore just no longer sat right with me. Spicy foods were off the table. I couldn’t even look at an Indian restaurant. It was devastating. Food became, once again, a chore — a means to an end whose only purpose was to satisfy my hunger and get me through the day.
Perhaps it was for the best. Food and I had jumped right into the sack and sped off into the sunset together. The honeymoon period had put stars in my eyes, so having it taken away from me naturally hardened my gaze. When I came back to my relationship with food, I had a new appreciation for it and was finally ready to make things work.
Oddly enough, the opportunity came when I moved to Chicago, in the dead of winter. Needless to say, I was more focused on stockpiling food through the cold months than I was on going on epic food adventures. But then something started to happen. The snow melted. The sun came out. And along came Meal Sharing.
At first, the concept of Meal Sharing — dining in other people’s homes — didn’t really feel like a revelation to me. It didn’t strike me as something that would change the world. In a way, it was already part of my world. Eating good food, and eating good food together is something we all know how to do. Meal Sharing was simply another natural step toward exploring myself and the world around me.
But just as my transition to college had often been eased by meeting new people over food and drink, so too did Meal Sharing make my transition to life in Chicago all the more rich and meaningful. I am blessed by the beautiful people I have gotten to know in just a short amount of time — people I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise.
There is really no more to be said than that.
Food is for nourishment, yes. But there is a reason we often eat together and not alone. Food is the most basic thing that unites all human beings. And even when everything else about a person might seem so foreign to us, we are still able to connect so naturally with others when we join in that experience of sharing a meal.
We crave food not for the necessity of it, or even for the taste, but for the feelings and the emotions that go with it — things that, once the meal is over, we can still hold onto and take with us wherever we go: like the memories I have of all the wonderful people I’ve met during my travels; or the sense of community I feel anytime I go to a new mealshare; or even the joy I get from remembering what losing my father (and losing myself) taught me about making each day (and every bite) count.
Food is for stories. Food is for community. Food is for learning about ourselves, others, and the world around us. And yes, food is for enjoyment.
“Food is for community. Food is for learning about ourselves, others, and the world around us”
Check out Paul’s Meal Sharing profile