Earlier this week we posted our lunch poll because, well, at LEE & LOW we like food a lot. It plays a central part in many of our books, and here’s why. Think about the phrase, “You are what you eat.” That goes beyond guiltily scarfing down a bar of chocolate. What we choose to eat on a regular basis says a lot about the culture(s) we belong to. Vegetables or meat? Spicy or bland? What you like to eat is more than just biology; it’s the way you were raised, how your grandmother’s kitchen smelled, the kind of supermarket your parents shopped in.
But eating does not have to be an expression only of who we are- it can also be a venture into who we are not. It’s an easy and delicious way to step outside our experiences and dip our toes in other cultures. In a society that is often still segregated in many ways, food can be the shortest distance between people. You may not have any Mexican friends, but you love Mexican food. Or Thai food. Or Ethiopian food. A delicious plate of beans and rice is no stand-in for an interpersonal relationship, but it’s a start, and sometimes that’s what we need. If you try a new kind of food and like it, will you want to bring back some friends and share it with them? Try cooking it yourself? Travel to whatever country it came from?
Frankly, I think it’s hard to hate a group of people when you love their food. OK, OK, trying new foods may not directly lead to world peace, but it’s amazing that eating lets us immerse ourselves for a few minutes in the tastes and smells of another culture, and it’s not awkward or difficult or uncomfortable. That’s why so many of our books are about food: It’s because food painlessly and deliciously brings people together.