Food

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This is my fourth speech from the Competent Communicator Manual. I gave this speech on 25 May 2010. The exercise is ‘How to Say It’. The title is ‘Food’ and the time is meant to be 5-7 minutes. I came it at 5 minutes exactly.

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Madam Toastmaster, Fellow members (and guests). Food is fuel. This is the message that is constantly drummed into us. At school, at home, on tele – food is fuel. In countries like America and Australia, this is the message we hear. Food is the enemy – tasty and necessary, it’s true, but something to be tolerated, even feared. Food is fuel. And to a certain extent, this is true. Food is fuel. But, as most cultures around the world will tell us, food is not just fuel. Food is connection. Food is community. Food is celebration. Food is love. Food is loss. Food is memory.

Picture this. It is a warm Sunday afternoon. It is late spring and you have decided to go barefoot. You feel the soft grass beneath your feet. The sun warms your back, not yet hot enough to be unpleasant. A gentle breeze cools your face, carrying with it the sweet scent of flowers. The distant hum of traffic is punctuated by the occasional call of a whipbird. But there is another sound close by. A soft sizzle which brings with it the smell of cooked meat, coleslaw and almost burnt onion. You turn to your family, ready to fill your rumbling tummy. You can taste it, can’t you?

Think about your five best childhood memories. Do any of them involve food? A hot Christmas lunch at your Great Grandmother’s house, followed by a full Christmas dinner with your Nanna and Pa, so delicious that you force down bite after bite, though you are already stuffed full. An ice cream tub full of toffees, cooked especially for you. The sound of greensleeves moving down the street as you rush to catch the drips from your cone. Licking the cake batter from the mixing bowl. Your very first sip of wine.

No, think about your five favourite smells in the whole wide world. I’m willing to bet that at least one of them is food. The smell of a cake cooking in the oven. The smell of chicken soup bubbling away on the stove. The smell of hot chocolate as you wrap your chilled hands around the mug. The smell of basil as you gently bruise the leaves. The smell of freshly baked bread.

The taste and smell of food have the ability to bring instant recall. We don’t just remember the past, we are transported there. We hear. We taste. We smell. We feel. Food reflects our emotions. Food affects our emotions. In most cultures, food is the glue that binds. Families come together and bond over the evening meal. Villages gather around the feast to celebrate a birth or marriage. Communities express condolences and shared grief over a meal, also a celebration of sorts. Food is woven into the fabric of our society.

The history of humanity is the history of food – how we acquire it, how we prepare it, what we can eat, what we can’t, who can eat, who can’t. The three scariest words in the human language are plague, war and famine. Food is so important in the development of our society, that many food words have filtered into everyday language. Beef, bowl, caper, grain, jam, stalk, stem – these are all words that originally related to food but now have other meanings as well.

Food is not an enemy to be feared. It is not a wild beast to be tamed. Food is our past. Food is our present. Food is our future. Most importantly, food is our connection to each other. Give the coming generation the gift of memories that you currently hold dear. Love your food, cherish your food and it will nourish you, not just in body, but in soul.

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