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The connection between food and storytelling

1. The connection between food and storytelling

In Spanish, there is a word called ‘sobremesa’ which describes the moment when you sit together after having finished a good meal, when the plates are empty and you are feeling full, happy and content, sharing stories with each other. 

sobremesa meaning lit 'over the table', time you spent after eating, talking to savor the companionship

We can probably all remember some moments like this, where we feel warm, safe and connected with the other people around us and can simply relax and enjoy this moment and connect with others. For some, those memories might be tied to the cultural importance of food, for example in religious celebrations like Ramadan, Christmas, Passover and Diwali.  In moments like these and others, stories can bring meaning to our lives. They can reaffirm and validate our perspectives and convey our values and emotions to others, thereby connecting us more to our inner selves and to others.

Sharing food or talking about food (its origins, how we prepare the dish, its taste…) is one way that makes conversations and the stories we share personal and emotionally engaging. Talking about food connects us to our own individual felt experience of the world and can bring abstract topics down to concrete examples. Our food can be at the centre of the stories we tell each other given the cultural importance of food. As expressed by Nicholas Williams:  “Food is who we are, where we come from, how we live, what we believe, and who we will become. Our biographies are condensed into dishes and bites, like memories garnishing our stories. Through the foods we consume and the foods we make–and don’t–we stake claims in our identities and stories, as if announcing to the world, “this is me and this is what I eat.” (Williams, 2017, Telling Stories Through Food, URL: Accessed: 06/09/2021)

Optional Activity (15 min): Are we in need of new stories around food?

Current industrial food systems might be limiting the ways we talk about food. Many argue that we've actually grown disconnected with food (through processes of mechanised mass production and processing, commodification,  etc. ). 

  • What kind of stories are being promoted through the current industrial food system? 
  • What different stories do community food growing initiatives generate?

Write down your reflections in your learning journal.