Coming to the Table

It all starts with an onion.

Tears begin to well in my mother’s eyes as she prepares what is most commonly the first ingredient in every dish made in our family’s kitchen.

After the oil, it is the first ingredient to be added to the hot skillet. It is the foundation for soups, sauces and almost everything else I can think of.

This first step has been engrained in my mind since I was a little girl. The onion comes first, my mum would tell me. I grew up cooking with my mum.

I owe my great love for food and the creation of it to her because of her insistence on having me participate in the process of preparing a meal since I was quite small.

This passing down of culinary knowledge is what keeps tradition alive. The ways in which we prepare meals plays a major role in how we define cultures.

The art of creating a meal requires some educating.

So what happens when parents stop educating their children on the art of preparing meals?

I arrived at this question after watching a documentary on CBC entitled “Eat, Cook, Love,” in which they highlighted the disturbing lack of family dining. By looking at various cultures, cities and modern families, the findings are startling: families are not taking the time to cook together anymore, let alone eat together!

More prominent in North America, the documentary attributed these findings to the busy lifestyles of North American families.

However, a large share of the blame lies within the home. As less culinary information is being passed down within the home, children are growing up detached from the kitchen and ultimately detached from their culture’s food education.

So what happens when parents stop education their children on the art of preparing meals? Well those children grow up without the skills necessary to cook for themselves. As a twenty-something, who has experienced residential style living at university, I can vouch first hand for this fact. I was shocked at how many students couldn’t cook for themselves. Making an omelet was a foreign concept for many of my peers.  And these are the students majoring in International Development Studies, with top marks from their high schools.  How could this be?

Without fail, each time I asked my peers why they couldn’t cook, it was always the same answer: “ Well I never really had to worry about it at home, I was too busy with all my extracurriculars, my mum would just make sandwiches.” This response saddened me, as some of the best discussions I’ve had with my family occurred at the dinner table over a meal prepared by us all. These peers of mine now live off instant noodles, eggs and cereal. When they begin families of their own, they won’t be passing down their family’s rich culinary knowledge- because they were “too busy.”

I’d like to take this time to bring your attention to this tragedy. For food is what brings us all together as humans, regardless of race, language or creed. We all need to eat! We all need culture to identify with and feel a sense of collective belonging.

So for the sake of food, let’s all slow down and make the time each day to sit down at the dinner table with friends and family. Even if you don’t cook, I have a sneaky feeling that if you try a recipe with your favorite people in the world, the collective effort will taste amazing- even if you burn the onions!

So this year, it is my wish that we ALL come to together to cook more, eat together and laugh often.

Happy Eating!