The Joy (or Pain) of Cooking

I just finished reading about an event being held this month at Vancouver’s “last working farm”, the UBC Farm. Joy of Feeding is an event that celebrates the joy food brings, both growing and cooking it, with foods from 16 different cultures prepared by 16 different home cooks. It sounds like an incredible celebration of food and culture, in a beautiful setting. But it got me to thinking – how joyful is our day-to-day interaction with food?

I have to say that my feelings are mixed. Perhaps as a reaction to both my work and home lives. Everyday a new study or initiative comes my way, describing how healthy eating is not the norm, that we need to emphasize eating fruits and vegetables, drink less sugary beverages and tackle the issue of obesity.

These are real and pressing health issues, chronic disease rates are affected by eating habits, physical activity and other lifestyle factors. But we need to temper the health discussion with a sensitivity to the social aspects of these discussions, and that overweight does not mean unhealthy, any more than skinny means healthy.  Overemphasizing healthy eating, can create issues around food and drive some into unhealthy behaviours, such as anorexia. Our colleagues at the Provincial Health Services Authority are having a dialogue on June 21st about how to promote healthy weights without harming self-esteem.

This ongoing dialogue is part of what drew my interest in the Joy of Feeding event, it is not saying “eat this” or “do that”, it is celebrating a healthy relationship with food, where it is grown and how it is shared amongst families and cultures. In my home life food (what to eat, who likes what, etc.) is not always joyful, I am hoping that by introducing my kids to events like these, that their own food horizons will broaden naturally. Perhaps that’s a romantic vision – but maybe we need something to strive for.

Another vision of food, community and health is being played out in Old Chelsea, ON near Gatineau Park, where a community farm project is at the heart of a brand new neighbourhood. If we are what we eat, then maybe our communities are what we grow? Check out this article from the Toronto Star that outlines the project http://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2013/05/31/organic_farm_puts_focus_on_food_in_new_subdivision.html target=”_blank”

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Programs and Policy
June 2013

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