I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I fit in the “food” world.
I can easily list all the things I’m not. I’m not a chef, nor a food journalist. Beyond Starbucks, I’ve never worked in the restaurant industry, where so many in the food world take pride in their battle scars…er, burns. I’m not a farmer. I’m not a dietitian. I’m a food blogger who hasn’t actually blogged in a year! Although my career is very clearly in the food industry and I take such pride in my job and what I’m learning, I still struggle to articulate my place in the massive, constantly evolving food system. It’s so easy to trick myself into thinking everyone has this very clearly defined “expertise” in their head and I’m the only one who has yet to nail it.
For a while, I felt like I could get by just saying I love food - but who doesn’t agree with that? I feel like there needs to be something I can distinctly offer to make food better.
When I’m feeling stuck in a rut about what my “thing” is - or what’s the passion I want to pursue - I ask myself what I’d want to be asked to give a speech on ten years from now. My topic of choice changes by the day. Sometimes it’s food history, other times it’s the future of sustainable development. Sometimes it’s addressing the United Nations on the state of child nutrition, and others days it’s hosting small-scale pop-up dinners like Syrian Supper Clubs.
I can see the common themes emerging from these passion areas. How do I better, or more intentionally, bring the intersection of food history, anthropology, culinary arts and social impact into my career? And is it okay to not have the answer now?
I don’t know the answer to the first question. But, I need to keep reminding myself the answer to my second question is a resounding YES. The longer I work, the more I realize everyone is just figuring it out as they go (…right?). I’m lucky to work some place where this all feels very possible, I just need to figure out how to meaningfully go about it.
This won’t be resolved today. I have a feeling it will take my lifetime. But until then, what I do know is I love food. I love cooking. When my to-do list feels increasingly and impossibly long, I love the satisfaction of completing a recipe. When screens are constantly glowing in my face, I find peace in trusting the feel in my hands kneading dough. When I’m cooking for myself, I’m free from feedback; the food is simply there to be enjoyed. A coconut chicken curry simmering away on the stove can transport me to a country I may never make it to in my lifetime. When I’m scooping homemade doro wat up with injera at my own kitchen table, I’m reliving memories of community dinners in Ethiopia. For me, food has been transformative. It’s a rare and lucky, or privileged, thing to even be considering these questions or have the opportunity to explore them. But, I’d probably be better to focus on the joy food brings me, rather than the feelings of doubt or panic.