I don’t know about you, but travel changes me.
I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot through Europe the last two years, but even watching someone else travel changes me. Reading a blog, a magazine article or watching a travel show on TV, I immediately want to learn more. How people live in another place. Eat their breakfast. Hug. Celebrate. Spend their evenings.
Watching an old episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain reminded me of a fundamental lesson we could learn from many of our European friends.
(What, don’t all your life lessons happen while watching No Reservations?)
Watching Bourdain roam around Croatia to learn about tuna fishing and the local cuisine, I was struck by how much pride the Croatians had for their land (or, in some cases, sea). Bourdain and his Croatian hosts ate at a restaurant where everything they consumed—cheese, veal, wine, etc—came from ingredients in the immediate surroundings of the restaurant.
It immediately took me back to my time in November when my husband and I visited Italy and Spain. People in those countries have almost a fanatical pride in food that doesn’t just come from their country, but from their city. Their town.
We have made improvements here in America, but we still struggle to get people buying American food, let alone food that comes from our cities and towns. I mentioned in this post that the average American meal traveled 1,500 miles to get on our plate.
In a country of such incredible natural abundance, how is that number so large?
Most of us in America—definitely not all—know very little about what grows in our neighborhood. How did we lose touch of having pride in the beauty and resources around us? Why do we sacrifice so much quality in the name of convenience?
I believe what you eat says a lot about a specific culture, and I’m afraid ours doesn’t say much good about us.
We don’t value spending time on creating good food; we value working more. We scoff at countries who spend a significant percentage of their income on food. We revere those who get everything as cheap as possible.
People have been trying to straighten out the American food system, but maybe it’s not as much of a food system problem as it is a pride problem.
In many cases, we know pride can be a bad thing. In this case, we need to be more prideful. We need to celebrate what comes from our hometowns, from our cities, from our counties and from our state. We need to take the time to seek those ingredients out.
We need to know our land. Knowing our land would make our pride grow. And by having more pride in it, maybe we’d start taking care of it more.