Maybe it’s because of the onset of the holiday season that I have recently started to think about the importance and impact that food has in bringing people together. I spent many years during the holiday season in both the Midwest and the East Coast in my early years and the one clear takeaway was how the cold weather brought people together. When it’s zero degrees and snowing outside you’re obviously not hanging out at the beach or the park… you’re more likely spending time at home or in a restaurant with others who are doing the same thing. This kind of ‘forced’ togetherness inevitably ends up with food playing a role in the experience and I love that it does because cooking and enjoying great food has always been my passion.
I recently read an article written about what drives chefs in the pursuit of their trade that stated “people who think about food when they’re not hungry aren’t normal, aren’t balanced.” Clearly, I guess that would make me and many of my JFAT colleagues whack jobs. Fortunately, we couldn’t disagree more with that opinion.
If you look at the cultural history of many European countries you quickly discover how much was driven by, and celebrated around, the gathering of family and friends over food not only in the home but also local restaurants, cafes, trattorias, pubs and taverns. It wasn’t that way for many of us born and raised in the country that created fast food. Unlike many other countries, our early versions of fast food resembled nothing like the honestly prepared, healthy dishes served from the street stalls and carts in other parts of the world. But we’ve made great strides over the past several decades not only in our approach to fast food but also how we view food in general and its importance to our melting pot cultures. It has given rise to the entire ‘artisanal’ movement being made more popular every year by the many young growers, farmers, ranchers, bakers and chefs who have become proud practitioners of their crafts. This has become possible because, as Americans, we all have become aware of the importance of high quality, naturally raised foods and have created a growing need allowing these craft persons to become successful in their businesses. This movement is also what was inspirational in the creation of the JFAT brand. It represents a ‘coming of age’ and a critical mass awareness that this country has finally started to deliver on the incredible culinary potential it has had based upon its diverse regional cuisines and the incredibly rich abundance of raw product available to us from both land and sea.
OK I’m stepping down off my soapbox now. My intent here was to encourage you all to take this time during the blessed holiday season to enjoy your friends and family and to celebrate the abundant and unique cornucopia of foods that we have available to us in this great land. For all America’s shortcomings and challenges, we have much to be thankful for.
Thanks for listening.