Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

This Season, Focus on Creating Convivial Food Experiences

Food
Pexels

By Danielle Nierenberg and Jared Kaufman

Eating together does more than make people happier — it can help us all be healthier, especially around the holidays.


Conviviality — eating with good company — creates a joyous atmosphere around food that reminds us to honor the food and the people eating it as well as those who grew, harvested, cooked and served it.

But conviviality can be tough in today's world. With countless apps that allow for home delivery of nearly any grocery or restaurant item, it's easy to eat at home. When diners do visit restaurants, they're now more likely to do it alone: The online restaurant reservation site OpenTable said bookings by solo diners jumped by 80 percent between 2014 and 2018 in New York City. Restaurants across Canada saw a similar spike, with OpenTable reporting an 85 percent increase in reservations for one between 2015 and 2017. In fact, in 2014, nearly half of all meals eaten by adults in the U.S. were alone.

The importance of conviviality has been recognized for hundreds of years, particularly by cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. "Eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin," UNESCO declares. "The Mediterranean diet emphasizes values of hospitality, neighborliness, intercultural dialogue and creativity, and a way of life guided by respect for diversity. It plays a vital role in cultural spaces, festivals, and celebrations, bringing together people of all ages, conditions and social classes."

Convivial experiences are not unique to the Mediterranean, though. No matter what you're eating, paying special attention to the food on your table and the people who brought it to you, sharing stories and recipes, and getting to know other people over a shared meal can break down social divisions and strengthen our food system.

This season, Food Tank is highlighting strategies to bring the spirit of conviviality to your table:

  • Cook with new ingredients. If you use a variety of foods in your kitchen, you can learn about the biodiversity of the world's agriculture while supporting the preservation of cultures' traditional food systems and crops. The Crop Trust's Food Forever initiative makes it easy and accessible to incorporate diverse ingredients into your cooking, with recipes that feature items like beans, lentils, and freekeh in delicious soups and side dishes. And through the Crop Trust's #CropsInColor campaign, you can see photos and videos from around the globe that highlight the beautiful and surprising aspects of a biodiverse food system.
  • Slow down your food. Leisurely meals can allow for time to have convivial experiences around the table, which is a central principle of the international Slow Food Movement. But it can be hard to find the time or resources to spend an hour on dinner, let alone a full evening. And Oxfam America offers a dinner-table discussion guide that can help you and your family think about where your food came from, who produced it, and why it's important.
  • Bring joy back to food. There are so many ways to infuse pleasure into your eating experiences, such as making sure to include items you truly love in your diet and pairing food with other enjoyable activities, like reading a book or sitting outside with a friend. Giving food-related gifts is also a powerful way to turn food and eating into a celebratory social occasion, according to a paper from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition.
  • Take the stress out of cooking. Making meals in advance and freezing them, or turning on a slow cooker in the morning, can speed up mealtime preparation so you can focus your energy on the people you're eating with—and help cut down on food waste!
  • Discuss the importance of conviviality with others. You can do this around your own dinner table, or by hearing from experts at events such as the 10th International Forum of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation. There, speakers including Barilla Foundation president Guido Barilla and Hilal Elver, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, will discuss driving sustainable development while protecting the planet.

Reposted with permission from Food Tank.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less

"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images

Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.

Read More Show Less
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons. Curtis Palmer / CC by 2.0

By Ashutosh Pandey

Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A women walks with COVID-19 care kits distributed by Boston's Office of Neighborhood Services in Boston, Massachusetts on May 28, 2020. The pandemic has led to a rise in single-use plastic items, but reusable bags and cloth masks can be two ways to reduce waste. JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP via Getty Images

This month is Plastic Free July, the 31 days every year when millions of people pledge to give up single-use plastics.

Read More Show Less