So if I’m writing about changing the way we think about lunch, I’m going to to have to say why I think that’s important. To illustrate, a story:
My family stumbled into a great opportunity to go visit friends and relations in Europe 4 summers ago (an aside: trips to Europe are not the norm around here). A few weeks before liftoff, my daughter and I went out for pancakes one morning (another aside: going out for pancakes, and with only one of my three kids in tow, is not the norm around here either), and I started to tell her about things we might be eating during our trip, and the culture of food there, and that we’d have to gussy up our table manners, and her seven-year-old self asked,
“Mama, why do the French take food so seriously?”
I was stumped. So I said,
“Well, let’s ask them when we get there.”
This, then, became her “research project” during our visit. We posed the question to several French friends and relatives, and the response was remarkable, and very surprising both in content and consistency. I think without exception they all said this:
That is, they said nothing, at first. But they ALL chuckled, and looked to the horizon, and smiled, and THEN they said,
“I have no idea.”
“But we do.”
So by the end of the trip we had to draw our own conclusions. The food was, of course, nothing less than astonishing – fresh, delicious, thoughtfully and lovingly prepared, and served with grace and style (and even occasional theatrics, just for good measure). Here is what we came to understand (brace yourself, it’s a doozy):
The French do not take food so seriously.
Toldja! It’s a doozy. We realized, though, that it was the community of sitting down together and sharing the time with others that the French take very, very seriously. The French cuisine, that yardstick-by-which-all-cooking-is-measured, has grown from the desire for community, not the other way around.
Changing the way we think about lunch (and all food in general) might well begin with a lesson learned by a seven year old.