The Meaning of Food - Documentary

I trust those algorithms that websites often use. Facebook has one, I'm sure, that posts updates in your news feed from profiles you visit frequently. iTunes tracks your purchases and recommends genres, artists and songs for you. And Netflix take cues from your queue (ha!) and recommends films that you should or could be interested in, and also recommends films from your region too. The other aspect of Netflix that I love is the "watch instantly" function wherein you can select certain films and have them streamed to watch them on your computer. Sometimes I do this when I'm busy with other things. I call it "watistening", which basically means that I watch-listen to films. My genre of choice is the documentary. Recently, Netflix recommended the following:

The Meaning of Food is a three-part limited documentary series that explores our relationships to food and reveals the connection food has to our identity: personal, cultural, and familial. Everything about eating—including what we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, who’s at the table, and who eats first—is a form of communication that is rich with meaning. Our attitudes, practices, and rituals surrounding food are a window into our most basic beliefs about our world and ourselves. - from the PBS website
I watistened to the first chapter of this three hour documentary, which focuses on Food and Life. I was mesmerized by the stories of families and people that they shared in the first hour; there was an Italian family who made their love of food a business in the form of an Italian grocery, a teenager who fasts for Ramadan and discusses her cultural relationship with Islam and American culture as it relates to food, a man who talks about his experiences as a prison cook for people sentenced to death, and a feature on women in a Czech concentration camp during the Holocaust who spoke about food and recipes in order to psychologically satisfy food cravings while they were suffering from malnutrition AND the book/cookbook that grew from the recipes they wrote down.

The other two hours of this documentary, Food and Culture and Food and Family, are just as interesting and wonderful to watch. The stories are varied and focus on the fascinating aspects of food...from spiritual to superstitious to superficial. I was intensely moved by the section about the Makah people from the Pacific Northwest and their spiritual and cultural connection to whaling, and how mainland white racism and ignorance rears its ugly head when they attempt to interact with the land and the sea around them in the way that their people have for generations. But in general, the stories told by the narrator and the people featured in the documentary are all interesting and engaging.

Em and I spent three hours on Saturday afternoon watching this, and despite some hesitation, even Em enjoyed it immensely. I have to say that the narration is kind of dry, but the guy doing it is a chef and not an actor. Em also suggested that there is limited discussion about what food product is being discussed, but extensive discussion on the preparation and the impact/connection the food has regionally and culturally. Also, the documentary is more appropriately named The Meaning of Food Mostly in America, but the cultural diversity in America sets the stage for a really unique learning experience.

A++

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.