by Andy Rosen
At large extended family events at our house—meaning, primarily Thanksgiving and Passover—we always start each meal by introducing everyone to the food we are about to eat. Paula, my wife and Chief Event Organizer (CEO), started this wonderful tradition because she feels strongly that the meal should be a warm and engaging experience, and our guests should feel welcomed and well-attended. Our relatives love to kid us about this tradition but, in truth, we know they consider it to be an integral part of the festivities and find it very meaningful.
Our introductions have grown in importance and detail over the years as the eating habits and dietary peculiarities of our family and friends have evolved, especially for those who need or choose to eat in a vegetarian, vegan, raw, or gluten-free fashion. My own involvement in “food sustainability” the past two years has resulted in my eating vegetables and fruit that are local in origin and organic, to the extent possible, and meats that come only from animals humanely treated throughout the entire “farm to fork” process.
That may sound a bit dramatic, but I feel strongly that the more people are knowledgeable about the origin of their food, the harder it is to take that food for granted, and the easier it is to be grateful for the opportunity to eat that food and share the dining experience with dear friends and family.
Recently, at a dinner at Pendle Hill, a nearby Quaker retreat center where all the food is organic and as locally sourced as possible, one of the chefs came out just before the eating began and told the diners all about the origins and make-up of the food we were about to eat. I was surprised and delighted (and a bit relieved) to see that our tradition has some very good company. I found the chef’s description inspiring and helpful.
Upping the ante at our house means a little more detail (sometimes in writing) on the ingredients, on the farmers who raised the food, and on the manner in which that food was grown or raised. It continues to be our intent that our family and friends feel warm, welcome, and well nourished, but it is also our not-very-secret agenda that our dining companions begin to think a bit more about their food and its origins and, thus, be more inclined to eat with gratitude.