“Food sharing is one of the most universal ways that we communicate love and foster the sense of connection.”
“While it is true that food can be the way into someone’s heart, food can also become a weapon to destroy it as well.” ~Dr. Theresa Nicassio, The Inclusive Chef
I know this seems like an unusual concept. However, when we think about the fact that “exclusion” is the single most common form of bullying, it offers an opportunity to sit back and consider what “exclusion” really looks like in daily life and what “inclusion” is and how it might be used as a healing antidote to bullying.
Food sharing is one of the most universal ways that we communicate love and foster the sense of connection. It is very primitive and can be seen demonstrated in the behaviour of other species, as well as amongst us humans. We’ve all experienced this—when we feel (or want to feel close) with someone, a natural thing we do is offer to share food or drink with them. The majority of courtship rituals and other cultural ceremonies often involve food-sharing in some way, as well as common practices that we demonstrate when we nurture those we love. Who we choose to invite and not invite to events (that again, typically involve a food component) is also typically relationally-informed and driven.
The more privileged we are regarding our abilities and comfort levels to connect socially, the less aware of this phenomenon we are likely to be. However, for individuals with cognitive, emotional, social, physical, and other challenges and differences, the experience of feeling (and actually being) excluded from social events and gatherings couldn’t be a more poignant reality.
As I have witnessed innumerable times, the emotional and spiritual consequences of being repeatedly excluded can be very serious. We all need to know that we matter. We all deserve to feel a part of the larger whole. This experience of “mattering” (as Dr. Norm Amundson has spoken about) is a basic human need—that I have found can even impact on our desire and will to live. It is serious. When we feel we belong, we feel safe. When we don’t, we feel fearful and socially isolated—it’s as simple as that.
While this speaks mostly to the more global issues of inclusion and exclusion, what has recently profoundly struck me in my work with personally and professionally working with those living with food restrictions was how easy it could be to shift our societal norm to one of inclusion—simply by using the already-present mechanism of food sharing!
Here are 4 simple tips to get started:
- Be more generous and inclusive when organizing social gatherings and events.
- Look individuals in the eyes and let them know that you really see them as you discuss with them your desire for them to be a part of a particular gathering or event.
- Ask everyone you invite if they have any food sensitivities or preferences, so that you can make an extra effort to design a menu or find a venue that they would also be able to participate in the food-sharing aspect, and not need to feel like a burden or inconvenience to the group, or otherwise feel left out.
- As much as is possible, make extra efforts during the event to check-in and ensure the most vulnerable of your guests are comfortable and finding food and other people to connect with.
It is amazing how these simple actions can make a real difference in the lives of others (and ourselves). Inclusive cooking can be a wonderful new paradigm for us to live by that is accessible to all of us. No one needs to feel bullied by exclusion any longer. Let’s all come together to make inclusion the new norm …. and what better place to start than through sharing delicious food together?
The time is NOW to heal what is within ~ mind, body and spirit.
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