There is a new term that has cropped up in the last year or two--comfort food. I am not exactly sure what that term is supposed to mean, but my vague impression is that it refers to an entire category of food and that restaurants can even be designated as comfort food restaurants, and that it is supposed to be delicious. That being said, when I hear the term comfort food, all I think of is Italian and Mexican food. I was thinking about that yesterday when I learned that we had been invited over to my in-laws for dinner with them and some other friends. My mother-in-law is an exceptional cook, particularly with regards to Mexican food, and Allison has fortunately learned well from her. As I walked up the street to their home I wondered what would be included in the meal: cheese or chicken enchiladas, chile verde, tortillas and beans, rice, empanadas, etc.? There are so many wonderful possibilities.
At least for the moment my mother-in-law has gotten herself involved with a group in which each member of the group cooks a whole lot of food and then shares meal size portions with each other for purposes of efficiency; they pass these six person portions of the meal around, and everyone freezes these meals for future consumption. While this sounds like a rational system with many benefits I can't help but think there will always be winners and losers, and I believe my mother-in-law (and by extension those with whom she is close) will almost certainly be on the losing side of any such exchange. We had one of these meals last night from another group member, and let me just say that the company and discussion was definitely the highlight of the evening.
One of the topics of discussion was a book that my brother-in-law, John Cutler, has just published entitled, The Ends of Assimilation. I usually don't read highly academic books because I tend to lose interest. For instance, a few years ago I read a lot of psychology and sociology books, and as I talked with academics about these books I found that the correlation between the ones I really enjoyed and the ones frowned upon as pop psychology or sociology by the scholars was 100%. I will give John's book a try, however, because John has a great sense of humor and is an interesting person, so I am sure the book is great. Anyway, as we discussed this book I had a tremendous epiphany where my thoughts about assimilation and food merged in what I feel is a truly inspired way. Here is my thesis: When non assimilation works in a positive way, food is the key, if not the sole contributing factor.
For instance, how often do you go to a big city and find a Little Italy or another ethnic section based upon really delicious food. And, on the other hand, and not specifically naming and thereby denigrating any other group why are there ethnicities for which there is never an enclave in a major city to be found?
In Boston, for example, on Hanover Street there are so many wonderful Italian restaurants that you could spend days there, or an entire lifetime, and it is all based upon the food. Even the language follows the food. To illustrate, last Summer we were in Mike's Pastry on Hanover Street, and I was interested to note that the employees spoke an Italian/English mix, and I observed that the occurrence of Italian in their speech was predominately connected with food.
I look forward one day to living in Zion and/or in Heaven where all things are in common and where there are no class distinctions, but I wonder if there will still be Italian and Mexican food. Somehow the lack of those food types seems antithetical to the concept of heaven. Maybe it is just something I can't comprehend with my finite mind, like the concept of infinite itself, which I accept as a concept but can't quite wrap my mind around.
In some ways, like with regards to my mother-in-law's new group, complete assimilation just seems to have so many negatives, especially for someone like myself who isn't into the negative aspects of group identity such as discrimination, hate, persecution, genocide, etc., and who can certainly be attached to delicious food to an excessive and unhealthy degree.
I will read John's book and maybe find some answers there.
I love you, John