feeding time (and place)
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I stand at the sink, doing the washing up, clearing up the wreckage of another fine meal. I am quite a tidy cook, cleaning up as I go along, but when feeding the many, even when only feeding myself, there is always a bit of a mess at the end to deal with. This is part of the nature of feeding, as it is of most reproductive work—repetitive, a bit tedious, messy, making the mess, cleaning up the mess, thinking about making the next mess, and so on… It is this tedious everydayness that is drawn upon when the work of reproduction is devalued as mere repetition, when it is opposed to the dynamic meaning-making of production that dominates our way of organising time.
But feeding others, feeding ourselves, is an expression of care and it is worth thinking a bit about what that involves. The ‘event’ of the meal is one thing, and we might tend to focus on that, the pleasure it brings, the memories it evokes, the meanings it bears. But what of the time lived and used before and after the event? How does this time of feeding feed into the creation of a sense of place with which food is so often entangled, and what kind of place is it? The time of feeding is both (somewhat) mindless-because-familiar repetition and mindful-because-I-care application of oneself to the creation of something new. Repetition opens out to difference because even the most familiar recipe, reproduced as an act of comfort for self and others, involves thinking through what will be comforting for this person at this time, and is at the same time a never-quite-the-same point of convergence of multiple trajectories to this version of ‘comfort’. As Young (2005, p. 139 and p. 143) said when speaking of the things and actions that make a place a home, these acts of feeding can ‘carry sedimented personal meaning as retainers of personal narrative’ and ‘give some enclosing fabric to [an] ever-changing subject by knitting together today and yesterday’. Or, as Massey (1993, p. 64) said when writing of a more progressive sense of place, they are ‘articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings’, so that ‘what gives a place its specificity is not some Iong internalized history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of relations, articulated together at a particular locus’. I think the sense of place that emerges from the act of feeding can also be seen in this way. So….
a recipe for ‘comfort food’
Time in your busy working ‘productive’ day to think about what to cook to bring comfort to whomever you are cooking for
Time in your busy etc. to collect the ingredients for the above
Agricultural workers brought together in some specific place to produce the ingredients, under whatever conditions are the norm for that time and place
Local and/or global supply chains to bring the ingredients to wherever you’ve had the time and resources to buy them
Your recipe, which may have been handed down from significant others, bearing all of the attachments that involves, and/or may be something you’ve been tweaking for years as you/your version of comfort changes
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but you can always pop out to the local shop for it
Make a lot of mess as you prepare the meal.
Try to reach a moment of calm through the repetition of familiar actions—slicing, stirring, tasting, smelling, remembering, anticipating—which might just be a moment of stillness in which to regroup or might be one that frees the mind to think new thoughts, like what you want to write about food…
Serve and take pleasure in the food, and the pleasure of having pleased others.
Clean up the mess—remember to compost and recycle, feeding yourself into other places and stories…