DANCING WITH DINNER

I'm speaking today in Cincinnati at a large private school hosting a regional foods symposium. 

 The evening keynote is titled "Dancing with Dinner" and the theme is primarily about food courtship.  Using the analogy of a dance as a friendly experience and part of a "get to know you" social construct, this talk brings into sharp focus how little we know about the partner we've brought to the table, on our plates.

 It's a fun performance (I don't call my presentations lectures) because obviously the analogy generates plenty of spice.  Do you know who you're dancing with?  Do you care?  What do they smell like?  What do they believe?  Would a relationship with this partner be healthy or unhealthy?

 People can easily grasp the importance of all these questions when it comes to selecting a dance partner but generally do not subject something even more intimate--eating--with the same level of discernment.  Food becomes flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones--nobody's dance partner is that intimate or critical to well-being.

 I explain how long ago people knew terminology like pullet, heifer, and shoat but today know very little about what's staring back at them from the plate.  What does food look like in the raw?  Those vegetables, are they frost tolerant or not?  Do they grow in the ground or above the ground? 

 Meat and poultry beg another whole set of questions.  Did the pork chop come from a happy pig?  Did the hamburger come from a beef animal that pruned vegetation properly, building soil, or one that overgrazed and depleted soil?  This is all about choice and how we express it at our dinner dance.

 How much do you know about your dinner dance partner?