As if it wasn’t difficult enough to navigate polite dinner time discussion, is food the next off-limits topic?
By Jessica Smith
Many of us likely subscribe to the idea that politics and religion are off-limits for dinnertime discussion. Increasingly, it seems that another topic may need to be added to that list. Food.
These days, issues related to what we eat (meat, dairy, gluten), its origins (local, sustainable, seasonal), and the way in which it is produced (organic, ethical, fair-trade) have the ability to raise tensions in a matter of seconds. It often seems that we might be better off bringing up our favored candidate in the next election than our opinion on the importance of buying fair-trade rice.
In truth, it’s not all that surprising that many of us are sensitive about what is “right” for us when it comes to what we eat. Food, of course, is what sustains us. In many instances, food too, is what brings us together. It is the most dependable opportunity we have to sit together and talk without distraction. As we become increasingly aware of the implications of what we eat on our health, the environment, the economy, and therefore spend more of our time thinking about how we make decisions about food, it should not come as a surprise that we become personally invested in our choices. Unfortunately, does this mean that it will become a topic too sensitive to discuss as we are sharing a meal?
Like politics and religion, there is no universally “right” way when it comes to deciding what to eat. It is my sincere hope that as food politics are more “in our face” and organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and every other option imaginable continue to become less trendy and more commonplace, we are able to approach our differences in food philosophies with more open-mindedness and less derision.
At the same time, my greatest hope is that we retain the simple joy that comes with enjoying, and sharing, a meal. Even as the questions that surround our food become increasingly prevalent and all the more touchy, I hope that we continue to discuss food around the dinner table.
After all, there are few things I enjoy more than talking about food.
I will willingly avoid religion and politics…but discussing how that fried chicken got its perfectly crisp skin? That’s something I’m not sure I can do without.
Jessica Smith is a native of the American Midwest, currently living in Thailand where she writes about food and travel throughout Southeast Asia. Jessica believes that the best way to understand a place is through its local cuisine.