I was at Schumacher College the other day listening to a fascinating talk on biodynamic cooking, and the history of food (I had gone along rather half-heartedly, but I’m so glad I went; and it also tapped in nicely to things I have been thinking about).
I sat up when the speaker said that she considers the table to be at the heart of a civilisation, of a culture. I thought about how some of the profoundest conversations, as well as my most enjoyable social times, have been round a table.
I also remembered the reasons for my conviction that all my residential courses are best opened with a shared meal: not only does eating together with strangers break the ice and create warmth and ease, but people will also freely reveal deeply intimate details of themselves in such a context, which in turn deepens cohesion and trust in a group setting.
Being vegan is connected, for me, with the holistic picture of a life lived consciously – I mean, I suppose, the attempt to live as consciously as possible. Eating in a way that causes as little suffering and harm as possible to others and the planet is congruent with other aspects of my life and values, and trying to close the gap between these things is a primary motivation.
But I’m a sensualist, and not a masochist, so this doesn’t have to mean bland and virtuous – rather, for me it means tasty, appetising, visually-appealing, fragrant, interesting and healthy deliciousness – in food and in life. (And yes, I’m not above chocolate, chips or crisps, believe me; and don’t mention French patisseries…)
Our food not only feeds our body, but feeds too our mind and emotions. If the food itself is good, and prepared with care, something extra is added.
And good vegan food, like good vegetarian food, is not characterised by any sense of lack or deprivation if the people preparing it have imagination, a little nutritional knowledge, and source well.
This latter means for me as local as possible, as fresh as possible, as in-season as possible, and organic.
We grow much of our own food, and forage a little too. This is so satisfying.
How we eat matters, too.
When my daughter was young, and I was working in the arts more than full time (I’d usually start again when she went to bed), one ritual was sacrosanct, no matter what. I’d always cook, and we’d always eat supper together, with a candle, at least in winter, and often with music too. We never had a television, and I think that makes a difference.
The ritual continues: my partner and I share the cooking, with produce from our own garden as much as possible, and make a quiet space in which to enjoy the food and the company.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, there are choices you can make that will help animal welfare. Compassion in World Farming has lots of info, including on this link: https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/