The Power of Food

By Angie Ruff


We need food. Food’s role in our daily lives is not only essential for survival, it also has a power that transcends nutrition. Food’s role in our lives also speaks to how we experience life and make memories.


Do you remember psychology class in high school or college? You likely have plenty of memories from school, but psychology probably is not one of them. However, you might recall Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In short, Maslow developed a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Needs lower down on the pyramid — like safety and love – – have to be met before higher needs like self-actualization are met. Food is part of the foundation of these most basic needs. Food sustains life. As explained in Maslow’s pyramid, food is at the foundation of our psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being.


Over the last four years, we’ve seen one of the strongest economies in a long time. March of 2020 arrived, and things changed seemingly overnight. Life came to a screeching halt due to a global pandemic. Jobs were lost temporarily and then permanently. Going into the office became a thing of the past for companies. Home became the new office. For more and more Americans, meeting basic needs like food and shelter became a growing problem.


These are hard days. Some families are wondering where the next meal is coming from. For others, circumstances make it hard to put one foot in front of the other because of isolation. Yet, aside from sustaining life, food can be the tie that binds us together. Think back to the smell of your mom’s cornbread in the old cast-iron skillet in the oven. Think about your grandma’s apple pie on Thanksgiving and the memories tied to it. Those were happy memories, but if you knew all the circumstances going on during the time, maybe they weren’t so great. Rarely does a family get together without undue stress or struggle. Yet, so many times, those bad memories are overshadowed by the fact that you were together with loved ones. You remember loving and being loved. Food can be the “glue” to those memories and that positive perspective.


It’s easy to get bogged down our current circumstances that include job losses, sickness, virtual school and isolation. However, it doesn’t have to weigh us down. Changing perspective is essential, so when we look back on this season, we take stock in what really matters Love, belonging and self-actualization, as Mr. Maslow mentioned.


Here are a few tips on how you can change your perspective using the power of food:


  • Make an old family recipe for your family today. Tell the story to your children or friends on what that food means to you and the memories involved.


  • Make a new recipe with your family now but start a new tradition with it. Maybe you make banana pancakes on Sunday mornings before you head out for a weekend adventure.


  • Cook that roast that’s been in your freezer using a new rub. Invite friends over to enjoy.


Whatever you prepare, tie it with an event or possible memory. Remember, the magic is not in the food. The food is what brings us together. It’s the trigger for the memories. Focus on making memories. That’s what will get us through and that’s what we remember.


When will things go back to normal? Who knows? But don’t let uncontrolled circumstances take away joy and rob some really good memories. When things do get back to normal, you won’t have any regrets. Hopefully, you’ll have amazing memories of how you got through a difficult time together.