It is a sad state of affairs when the passage through adolescence requires the loss of the humanizing ritual of mealtime. Let’s face it, the Slow Food movement, which tries not only to restore that ritual before it is gone for good but connect people to the idea of sustainable agriculture and living, has an uphill battle.
I read about this problem today while still mulling over yesterday’s PNCA + FIVE panel on Portland and sustainability. Susan Szenasy, editor in chief of one of my favorite magazines, Metropolis, moderated the discussion, touching on a few topics that merit much more attention, one of which is social sustainability.
We don’t just want to preserve biological systems so that we live, but so that we live meaningfully. The loss of mealtime as a time to come together is a sign of a degraded social environment.
Biological and social sustainability are tightly interrelated because, simply put, if we don’t have a reason to sit down and enjoy a meal with our kin and clan then we fail to feed our social instincts, which for eons have been the reason for our survival and the occasion for joy in living. Sustainable systems recognize the need for planning, architecture and infrastructure not just to preserve ecosystems but to bring people together in a way that supports our desire to mix and mingle.
Americans already have largely lost touch with the daily custom of coming together over the table, and it is no wonder kids don’t know or care where their food comes from, or if it is really food at all. Our degraded environment is the result.