Celebrate and honor Earth Week and the earth’s abundant gifts with an Earth Dinner! An Earth Dinner can be as large or small, as planned or spontaneous as you like. The only guidelines are to use local seasonal and organic foods where you can, know the story behind your food, and have meaningful conversation about food, farming and the earth. It’s simple! And it can be held at any time of the year—Earth Day or any day. When we cook and eat together, we create stories that feed our hearts and minds. It’s a culture shift, and it starts at the table.
1. Learn where our food comes from.
Agriculture is the foundation of civilization, and local, stable sources of food allowed societies to grow and flourish. But today, our food and farming systems are broken. Chemicals are used to grow our food, and farmers are up against unspeakable odds to make a decent living while also being good stewards of the land. How can we change this toxic cycle for the benefit of farmers as well as eaters? It’s important to ask questions and help each other learn where our food comes from. An Earth Dinner is the perfect opportunity.
2. Know the story behind the food on the table.
Knowing where our food comes from also involves digging into the deeper story of each ingredient on your Earth Dinner table! Where did the ingredients come from? Do you know the farmer’s name? How was it grown? What ingredients did you have trouble finding the story? Why? Have fun with it! Pretend you’re the feta cheese and make people guess where you came from. Maybe “you” are from Greece and made in a tiny village where they still use the twisted intestine of a goat to stir the milk to get the enzymes they contain. Now that’s some feta worth eating!
3. Create and share delicious memories with friends and family.
Throughout history, feasts were synonymous with stories—fictional, fantastical, or true—told to wide eyes flickering in the firelight. It’s no wonder that, from childhood, our most vivid memories are created around a table laden with offerings of food. This is a chance to revive family stories and recipes that would otherwise be forgotten. Each comes with memories of place settings, special people, important life moments, and if you’re like me, a few splatters and smears on the paper that always make me smile. Speak meaningfully and listen respectfully. Engage adults and children equally. We think, laugh and love longer when we gather together over good food.
When we cook with our children, we nourish their spirits as well as their bodies. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or complicated; showing them how you make their favorite comfort food can become one of the most memorable moments for a child, young or grown. If you don’t have children, borrow someone else’s! You’ll give mom and dad a night off and maybe teach a child something new (and maybe be changed, yourself). “My children have eaten, as well as cooked with intelligence since they could hold a spoon, and they have absorbed much more than food over a bowl of good soup.” (To Begin Again, M.F.K. Fisher)
5. Acknowledge food as medicine for every body, heart and soul.
We’ve been trained by a broken food system to eat like a bunch of teenagers, which is to say “like there’s no tomorrow.” Unfortunately, tomorrow comes ever faster on the coattails of dramatic increases in obesity, diabetes, cancer and developmental problems. That broken system has trained us to eat not only unhealthy processed foods, but in unhealthy, mechanical ways: fast and alone, often in front of a TV, computer or smart phone. Preparing real food can be as beneficial as meditation. Preparing and sharing it with loved ones can be even better.