What are you having for dinner tonight? and becoming my mother.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with some friends from college, some of which I hadn’t seen for over 6 years.  Sitting on our friend’s balcony, we found ourselves talking about food.  This seemed perfectly normal to me, since I love talking about food.  I tried to contain my excitement to below awkward nerd level, which was really difficult.  As I was checking myself, I stepped back from the conversation to see it from the outside.  It looked quite fascinating for lots of reasons.

1. We no longer eat like we did in college.

Well, duh, right?  But I don’t just mean that cold pizza is no longer on our breakfast menu.   I mean we have made significant changes to our diets.  I no longer eat meat, along with one other.  Two others eat meat very rarely, in part because, “I don’t like touching it.  Ew.”  We had friends in college who ate vegetarian or vegan, so it’s not that we weren’t aware of the issues.  But now we’ve made that choice for ourselves.

2. We no longer think about food like we did in college.

In college we thought about cost of food in that we needed to make our meal plan last the entire year.  We arrived 15 minutes early to events that advertised free food just for the food.  But most of us weren’t thinking too deeply about how many servings of vegetables we were eating, whether meat was good for us, and whether or not our eggs should be free range from the grocery store or purchased directly from the farmers’ market.  Now we do.  We read books like Skinny Bitch, watch movies like Forks Over Knives and worry about the welfare of local farmers.

Michael Pollan wrote in one of his books about how Americans think, worry, and debate more over what to eat than any other culture.  We’ve all heard about the mythical French woman who can eat rich cheese, croissants, and drink wine all day long and never gain a pound.  And who hasn’t heard that we should eat the Mediterranean diet?  Olive oil, fish, and pasta?  But we still need to sit and hash out whether organic eggs trump free-range.  Why is it that other nations don’t obsess the way we do?  (And how–not if–is that related to our obesity and diabetes epidemics?)

3. We actually cook.

All of us have become handy in the kitchen!  Even our international friend who grew up with paid cooks in her house has now mastered several recipes, including this Baked French Toast she made us.  Given that we are all a little more health conscious, she used 1% milk, light cream, and less butter and sugar.  And it was still amazing!  Not only did we enjoy a dish modified to be more healthy, we also all chatted about a variety of versions with savory ingredients that would also be delicious.

This immediately made me feel older and more domesticated.  And by older, I really mean that I started to feel like my mother, sitting around with her sisters or sisters-in-law, chatting about a new recipe, kitchen gadget, or–gulp–baby thing.  Not that that is an entirely bad thing, but I’m just not sure if I’m ready for that stage of life! I’d like to convince myself that I’m still hip and cool for as long as possible.

Most of all, I was so happy to see these friends, and to chat about something we all care about and have in common.  In addition to representing our values, cultural heritage and social status, food is also a strong connector.  We all have to eat food.  A chef was being interviewed on the radio the other day (I still listen to the radio!  That makes me old, right?) and she commented that she can become fast friends with anyone, regardless of how vastly different they might be, by asking them one simple question, “What are you having for dinner tonight?”

And so I ask yo,u my readers, What are you having for dinner tonight?

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