“The Universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives, eats.” — Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Think about the taste of sweetness. Candy, honey, perhaps the custard tarts you get at the small Portuguese market. However you think about it, you most likely interpret it as an experience. But can you define it?
Sweetness, as we know it, is the experience of indulging in a food that has the specific quality of sweetness. It is a quality that is understood through the experience shared between ourselves and a specific food item. However, sweetness isn’t only understood as an experience of our own, but as an experience labeled by someone who has taught us where sweetness is found. Think about the first time you recognized something sweet, perhaps your first time eating chocolate. It was most likely given to you by someone else who mentioned that it was “sweet.” From that experience, you then recognized other forms of sweetness. As our palate broadens from one food to the next, and we find similarities between “sweet” foods, we also find that the taste of sweetness changes from one food to the next. But, have we ever stopped to think about what sweetness tastes like to someone else?
Taste is one of the many experiences that we encounter through food, yet it is the one that we least understand. This leads me to believe that there are many important characteristics about food that we disregard or simply do not comprehend. First, by the word ‘food’ I want to emphasize that it includes anything we are meant to consume, i.e., produce, meats, drinks, and the list goes on. Food is a constant in our lives, we are surrounded by it every day, we experience it in a variety ways, and no two people experience it in the same way. Though our comprehension of our relationship with food may be vague, we do share one understanding of it, one that is easily mistaken as its sole purpose — to sustain our lives. Beyond that, we do not often question its full capacities and its greater relevance in our lives. Yet, I believe food is much larger than sustenance — it is also a venue for identification and growth.
I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a household where food and hospitality were the centres of my upbringing. Throughout my childhood, I was exposed to a variety of different foods and cultures that helped me appreciate it in greater depths. However, it was not until a few years ago that I realized the point to which food has influenced me as an individual and to what extent it continues to shape me. Food | Place | Identity is a project that I have started in the hope of beginning a new conversation about food. One that veers away from the dicing, slicing, tablespoons, Centigrade, and Fahrenheit paradigm. A discussion that isn’t influenced by the commercialization of food and quick and easy ways to cook. This is a conversation about food’s influence on us and our influence on it.
It seemed appropriate to begin the project in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario before continuing my journey elsewhere. Despite not being considered as highly as New York, or London, from a gastronomic standpoint, this city, defined by its great ethnic and cultural diversity, is home to a wide spectrum of different foods. Over the last 5 to 10 years, Toronto has utilized its multicultural background to create a community around food that has transformed it into one of the richest epicentres of food cultures.
Through a series of intimate stories and philosophies, Food | Place | Identityexplores how food shapes individuals, cultures, and landscapes, as well as how we have shaped food itself. Each week, a new story will be added to the publication to highlight a new way food has influenced something, or someone in the world.
Here’s to a new conversation about food…