Social Situations: Food

Claire Marvin, Columns and Reviews Editor

As the only day it is socially acceptable to wear stretchy pants and eat more than you probably should approaches, food is on everyone’s mind. I for one, cannot resist the beckoning smell of fresh Turkey and stuffing, and rarely hesitate to add an extra scoop of ice-cream alongside my slice of pie.

Thanksgiving always reminds me of how important and influential food is in our lives. Every time I plan to meet up with one of my friends, we always plan to go somewhere to eat. If someone you haven’t seen in a while asks you to hang out it usually goes something like this: “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while, do you want to go grab a coffee or go get a bite to eat and catch up?” We subliminally schedule our lives around food and never even second-guess it.

People even become defined by the foods they choose to eat. Vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, and the increasingly more popular gluten-free lifestyles pose challenges every day for those who choose, or are forced to choose, them. Although my vegetarian friends won’t grab a hamburger with me, and my lactose-intolerant friends find it difficult to meet up for ice cream, food still brings people together, and Thanksgiving is a prime example of that.

Yesterday, a few of my friends and I walked around Berkeley and handed out lunches to people who seemed down on their luck. I have been to Berkeley more times than I can count with my friends, but the Berkley I saw yesterday was far different than the fun, lighthearted, eclectic Berkley I was used to seeing. I have always been aware of the homeless population in Berkeley, but except for quickly stopping to hand them some extra change, I had never really interacted with or talked to any of them. I have worked at several soup-kitchens and shelters in my life, but I was always there representing a charity with a group of other volunteers working alongside me. It felt so good yesterday to be helping others, not as a volunteer or charity league member, but as myself. I wasn’t wearing a nametag or an apron, but in my jeans and plain t-shirt I felt infinitely more human.

At first when we were handing out the lunches I was afraid that we might not find enough people to give them to, or that I might accidentally insult someone by trying to give them free food.  However, I was surprised by the warm responses we received from those we gave the lunches to. People thanked, and even blessed us. The most memorable part of the day for me though, was when I offered a lunch to one man and he said, “Thank you so much. You never know when you are going to eat again.”

I knew that we were giving out lunches to people who were most likely hungry, but the way he said it so plainly made me think of how I often take food for granted. So as turkeys are stuffed, potatoes are mashed, and gravy is poured, let’s remember to give thanks for our family, friends, health, homes, and last but certainly not least, our food.