Food has a way of connecting people and is often the focus of family or cultural celebrations like birthdays. Despite the current limitations on travel and socialising, food still has the power to connect us – albeit virtually – with other people, countries and experiences. Here dad of one David tells us how food has helped him to connect with other people and places during recent months.
Years ago, I was asked to go to Spain to work and needed to learn the language – fast! I moved in with a Spanish family and over mixing, stirring, cooking and eating meals I not only improved my Spanish but also gained a lifelong love of the country, its people – and its food! I also learnt a lot about myself while cooking and eating with my Spanish family – not least that it was fine to make mistakes (both with language and cooking) and that it was more than ok to ask for help and to learn from others.
During lockdown I’ve taken up cooking again with a passion – happily conjuring up tasty Spanish dishes for the family-like casseroles, Chicken, chorizo and butter bean one pot and a vegetarian Spanish butter bean stew. Time spent in the kitchen has given me the chance to wind down and ‘escape’ for an hour or two away from the dull routine of lockdown London to a sunnier place full of amazing Mediterranean tastes and smells. It’s taken me back to those days in Spain experiencing fabulous new spices and herbs for the first time and reminded me of the amazing experiences I had, the places I visited, the relationships I made and the skills I gained. I’ve also had time to relax while cooking, think about the future – something I don’t usually have time to do – and reconsider broadening my activities… I’ve started reading and listening to Spanish again, for instance.
“I’ve also had time to relax while cooking, think about the future – something I don’t usually have time to do.”
With many of our usual activities, such as sports, ruled out in recent months my son and I have started baking together on a Sunday instead. It’s a calm time before the start of yet another busy week. Together we plan and make our baked treats, popping them in our tin ready for the week ahead. It’s great to see how he’s grown in confidence over the months and he now happily adapts recipes, adding another handful of flour to get the texture ‘right’, or throwing in some raisins just because he feels like it.
I spend my working life making decisions so it’s great to let him be in charge instead! In Spain all those years ago I learnt that eating together around the table and cooking together can spark the most interesting and inspiring conversations and that’s true of Sundays with my son now too. Baking together has been a time to connect, to chat, and to discuss things we don’t usually have (or find) the time to. Although I can’t have my parents round to cook and eat together, food has also been an increasingly important way to connect with them via phone – with many interesting and positive conversations starting with a chat about food. So, while a trip to Spain might be a long way away… I’m enjoying bringing the tastes and flavours and smells of Spanish cuisine to my family in the meantime through cooking!
Family Action offers a range of food programmes, such as Cookalong4Families which encourages children and families to cook and bake together. Find out more here.