Part of what we explore this month is sharing food together to mark an occasion. For me, that has ranged from the dreaded oyster stew of my youth for Christmas Eve, to the requested angel food cake and strawberries for my birthday. Thanksgiving was the big ritualistic holiday for us, gathering with my eight cousins in Belle Plaine for food and football. 

After I left home, I began to make my own rituals for that holiday. Four housemates and I were determined to create a big meal of our own — without the option yet of Internet research, we unwisely left a frozen turkey on the counter overnight to thaw. In smarter years, there are fond memories of being crowded into small New York City apartments for potlucks, creating new traditions as the single thirty-somethings that we were. 

After I was a mother, living in Minnesota again, and my parents were spending winters in Arizona, the traditions for my two kids and me evolved further. We stayed in our pajamas and created an ambitious menu that involved cooking together most of the day. For a time, a roasted chicken, sitting on a beer can in the oven was our entree of choice. After my daughter became a vegetarian, and my son quietly let his teacher know how disturbed he was seeing a headless chicken trapped inside the oven, we experimented with salmon, crab legs, and shrimp. Each year, my daughter attempted to make more pies than she had the year before. 

The day without technology, chopping and stirring and cooking, led to eating into lethargy, which led to lazily playing games, and making flower collages to honor the people we were grateful for that year. 

I expect those daylong, pajama-clad food experiments for three are over. This past year, my daughter flew home from her first year of out-of-state college. Our meal together had expanded to five. We were more formally dressed, with my parents able to join us, no longer going to Arizona. This fall, my daughter will be based in Prague. Soon enough she’ll be creating her own rituals with friends, as will my son. Eventually, they’ll bring home friends for a holiday meal. 

For me, those years the three of us spent jointly creating meals that were larger than we needed, simply for the sake of preparing it together as long as we could, will always be some of my favorite food memories. 

Food as Revolution 

In “Yes” magazine, Nancy Matsumoto reviewed a book titled, “A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat.” Her essay asked questions such as “to what degree can consumers be motivated to push for food system change? Is consumption just too easily co-opted by capitalism?” 

Matsumoto writes, “We like to think that opting for grass-fed beef, skipping meat altogether, or going vegan are all forms of resistance.” Those practices make us feel good, she continued. However, they don’t prompt change in a system in which the poor can only buy the cheapest, least healthy foods. The anti-food-waste initiatives can't balance the overproduction of processed foods that we allow. 

Local, grassroots efforts are bright spots in the food justice movement, Matsumoto suggested. In the pages this month, you’ll meet some of the Minnesota women who are actively engaged in that movement.