Once upon a time, sharing food was an uncomplicated business – a way to foster unity and harmony. Families said grace before sharing a roast, banquets sealed peace treaties, and lovers played footsie beneath tables (fortunately some still do). Nations ate roughly the same foods, at the same times, and food habits changed slowly, if at all. Food was justly seen as both emotionally and physically nourishing.
But in recent years, food increasingly divides us. This is not just due to the explosion in cultural diversity, which has brought a rich Smörgåsbord of variety to our plates, but, less positively, increasing confusion due to conflicting information about what constitutes a ‘good’ diet, and the pressure of frantically busy lives. Cooking and eating at home with family or friends is increasingly uncommon, whereas food anxiety is burgeoning.
Yet we have not lost the old archetypes. The Sunday roast is still the ultimate symbol of family love and togetherness. Decades after her childhood, my mother still remembers the tantalising smells that would drift right to the end of the garden where she was playing. The memory of the beautiful gravy her mother would pour over the succulent roast beef still has the power to make her mouth water. For an entire nation, Mum’s gravy could be an object of obsession, and the butt of Tony Hancock’s jokes when it failed to ‘move about’.
For many families then and now, sharing a meal was one of the few things that could be done together. The best memories would also be of laughter and conviviality. There was also pride about a well-cooked meal, something that cannot be got from opening a packet!
This is something that has always been close to the hearts of Arthur Hollins and his family. Sharing food is at the heart of all family gatherings at Fordhall. The photo attached is from the early 1960’s showing Marie-Anne Hollins (Arthur’s second daughter) and her friends having fun in the Fordhall kitchen.
So what memories do you treasure of cooking and sharing food? Did food and love coincide in your life in a memorable way? Write in with your stories of sharing food (pictures are also welcome!) and we will publish the best ones.