A photo that I saw on Twitter a few years ago, and can’t find it anymore, showed the devastation of the Syrian war in the background and in the foreground a glassless shop window with displayed colored cupcakes. The photo was taken from the battered bakery and I imagine the baker wanted to brave the war misery with the colorful cakes.
A blackberry bush in the midst of faded weeds. Bunches of mint leaves in a flower pot on the balcony. Your own vegetable garden. The dalia, the grape tree in our house when we lived in Morocco. The house had no electricity, we had to go to the pump down the street for water, but that tree gave generous bunches of honeyed white grapes every summer. Just as the Syrian baker’s cakes were an act of protest against the war, a way to keep up appearances in a sweet way, so are the fruits of nature. As if to remind man that there is always a tomorrow.
Eating can also be an act of love, of resistance
Sure, food nourishes the body and mind, but it can be more than just a basic necessity of life. Not just one with which you show love, but with which you also resist, challenge politics, evoke nostalgia and regain or reclaim dignity.
Massimo Bottura, the world-renowned three-star chef of the Osteria Francescana restaurant in Modena, which was twice awarded the best restaurant in the world, has made special contributions in recent years. refectori, soup kitchens, opened in different cities around the world. Homeless people can enjoy free three-course meals in a stylishly decorated room with precious wall art. To ‘feed the soul’, as he calls it, to give people back their dignity with good food and the respect of a beautiful environment.
During one of the interviews I had with him a few years ago, he told me that the regulars in Milan became more confident and started to complain when they didn’t like the menu. ‘That soup again’, he imitated them, laughing loudly. He loved it.
That’s what food does. Good food. In times of adversity, disaster and war, people, and especially aid organizations, choose the essential basic needs. That is understandable, because food costs money and there is often no such thing in difficult situations, but precisely when life goes against you, when the misery is greater than you can comprehend, the right ingredients, flavors and dishes can help to provide comfort, relief , an escape from the sad reality.
A pinch of cumin, some sprigs of coriander, a kebbeh in your destroyed apartment, sweet pastries, home-grown fruits and vegetables that continue to grow like a miracle in spite of everything around you.
Good food can give a sense of security, evoke past times for a while, make memories tangible and bring lost loved ones closer.