At Our Recipe for Unity℠, we believe (and the data supports) that there is a strong, undeniable connection between Unity and the value and power of eating together.
And, the data also shows that sharing our stories and our recipes goes a long way to generating empathy and compassion (and thus, Unity) by revealing our humanity and our shared values beyond our differences.
Thus, the establishment of our online, nationwide, user-generated community cookbook called Food Tapestry℠ and the archive of Food Connection Stories (more about Why Your Story Matters Below).
The value and success of Our Recipe for Unity’s mission rests, in part, on participation both online (Food Tapestry and Food Connection Stories) and offline (see our suggestions in Each Day Any Day) and the impact that participation has on each of your lives by helping to spread Unity within your sphere of influence.
So, Why a Community Cookbook Called Food Tapestry, and Why Are Your Recipes Important?
First, let me disclose that I am an avid community cookbook collector with over 1,000 volumes dating from the early 1900s up to the most recent decade. They cover all 50 states and many U.S. territories and I read them like history books; they are, in fact, windows into America, its communities and its people.
Community cookbooks were historically used as fundraisers for local community groups such as schools and churches and they have expanded to include art, music, medical and many other non-profit organizations. The cookbooks include recipes submitted by individuals (usually members of the fundraising organization) and these recipes commonly reflect a favorite recipe, well-tested, well-shared and well-loved. Often, the recipes reflect the contributor’s cultural or ethnic heritage as well as something important that the contributor wants to share about their lives. And, notably, the recipes almost always include the contributor’s full name. There is pride in sharing their recipes and as an extension of that pride, there is love--love for the people with whom they share the recipe and love for the people with whom they share the meal.
Community cookbooks, through their recipes, reflect the history of communities and the history of America. Over the years, community cookbooks represented demographics and changes within these markers: gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, occupation, geography and socioeconomic status. And, community cookbooks often reflect family structure and ingredients that we may not be familiar with (thus, giving us the opportunity to expand our palate and our exposure to communities with which we may have little in common). Community cookbooks have and currently reflect, linguistically, local dialects such as Gullah and other vocabulary representing other ethnicities and cultures.
For example, many of my personal recipes reflect not only contemporary recipes that I love to make for my family, but they also reflect my Eastern European heritage and my grandparents’ socioeconomic status since we ate foods prepared with chicken feet, cow’s tongue, cow knee bones, and lamb necks--foods that, in some homes, were headed for the trash heap.
Community cookbooks also reflect our history. For example, many of the foods of the American South have been influenced and, in some cases appropriated from the work and inspiration of slaves taken from their West African countries. Many of the foods we eat are reflective of international influences of immigrant populations and how they’ve changed over time. For example, in the 1960s many community cookbooks included La Choy chow mein in their recipes. While today, there is more of a trend toward greater authenticity in both recipes and ingredients as people take greater pride in their heritage and choose to share that pride with others within and without their communities.
Thus, community cookbooks are an entrée into a slice of America and its people at any given point in time or a particular geography.
Why You, Why Now and What Does This Have to do With Unity?
Recipes are love. Recipes reflect our heritage and our culture. Recipes reveal something about our families. And, recipes are meant to be shared. In the past, recipes were clipped from newspapers, written on index cards and shared by word of mouth. Now, with Food Tapestry, you have an opportunity to transcend geographic boundaries and the limitations of the printed word. Food Tapestry extends across the country, and resides, digitally, in perpetuity.
Food Tapestry is your opportunity to not only share your recipe but to share a piece of you, your love, caring, pleasure, enjoyment, appreciation, identity, connection and history. Share recipes that bring you pleasure because undoubtedly they’ll also bring pleasure to others as well. Share recipes that reflect your heritage, ethnicity and culture, your religion, your regional ingredients. Share recipes that reflect You.
You may be thinking that there are millions of recipes online already, why should I submit my recipe? There are many reasons to submit your recipes but here’s one of the most important: Recipes that are commercially published online don’t have a history, and they certainly don’t have your history. It’s like the difference between buying a sweater in a department store versus receiving a sweater that was lovingly knit or crocheted by hand. There is something intangible yet supremely valuable in the latter. The same is true with recipes. When you submit a recipe, you’re telling people that there is intention, caring, history and love behind it. I would rather make one of your tested and loved recipes than one that I found online from one of the many sites that feel like generic recipe generators.
YES, Your Recipes Contribute to Unity
When you submit a recipe to Food Tapestry, you are helping create Unity. By definition and in practice, recipes are about connection. Your recipes will remind us of the past and point us towards the future. They illustrate how we show love to our friends and families. Your recipes will teach us about other cultures and ethnicities. And, through the power of the internet, your recipes have the potential to reach millions of Americans.
In case you think that if you add your recipes to Food Tapestry there will be too many of the same type of recipe, there’s no such thing. First, there is only one you and your recipe is just as important as the recipes contributed by everyone. What it tells us is that there is boundless love, joy and connection; never too much!
Why Your Story Matters
Your thoughts about submitting a story to our Food Connection Story Archive may be taking you into dark neighborhoods in your mind. For example, you may be thinking “My story is only one story, why does it matter?” or, “I can’t write,” or “There’s nothing important I have to say” or “I’m not even sure what to write about.”
Well, have no fear; there are answers here.
I’m Not Sure What to Write
You may not think you have a Food Connection Story but we’re sure that you do. Think about this for a second: How many special occasions in your life have been built around food and meal sharing? This includes everyday situations at work, in the coffee or donut line in the morning. Even an informal conversation in the food truck line creates a connection with another person.
Have you ever been to a birthday party? A potluck? A family dinner? Have you ever talked with someone in the produce aisles of your local grocery store about an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable and wound up with a new recipe or meal idea--as well as a momentary connection? For as many moments as there are in a day, there are endless numbers of stories. After all, a story is just a memorialization of a moment or a series of moments.
Sharing a Food Connection Story is a way to prompt questions, introspection, conversation and, thus, change. Your story can be as simple as conveyance of a food memory (sort of a “Where were you when...” ) or a description of a food-related object that has meaning to you. Was there a special tablecloth used during holiday or family dinners? Is there a unique set of silverware or a special cooking utensil that brings back memories of food connections?
So, write about what you know. Every Food Connection Story will add to the fabric of our Food Tapestry and our Food Connection Story archive.
So, What is the Value of Telling My Food Connection Story?
Norma J. Livo and Sandra A. Rietz in their book Storytelling: Process and Practice write “...the Story is a mirror that shows us who we are and converts the mundane into profound...Story takes the ordinary and binds it into all of human existence, revealing the significance of the trivial”.
Most importantly, sharing your Food Connection Stories is like coming together around a table, figuratively. It helps each of us to discover that differences such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status are not dispositive of ones’ values and that most of us are much more similar than we are different. We all love, we all fear, we all worry, we all want what's best for our children and loved ones. We all celebrate the highs and joys of life and we all mourn loss. We build traditions, we encourage respect and preservation of our dignity and the dignity of others.
So, sharing your Food Connection Story is an antidote to ignorance and a door opening to familiarity.
Each of us has the power to change a mind and, thus, to alter a circumstance. The Power of One is real. Toni Morrison wrote:”...There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
Writing your Food Connection Story contributes to building Unity in America by helping to penetrate the boundaries of our silos. By putting all of our stories together we gain a greater understanding and appreciation of one another that helps point to the true North of Unity.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Here’s your chance to put a pebble in the pond and to start the ripple of hope that will lead to Unity. So,...
Write for Justice
Write for Equality
Write for Your Children and for Their Future
Write to Honor the Heroes of Our Past and to Encourage our Present and Future Heroes
Write for Freedom
Write for Love, Acceptance and Respect
Write for Truth
Write YOUR Truth
and, most importantly...
Write for Unity
Help! I’m Not Sure I Can Write a Story
First, you don’t need to write a full-blown story. You can write about a moment, a series of moments, a memory--anything that illustrates connection with another human being around food. (And, feel free to make as many submissions as you’d like with or without submitting a related recipe.)
Second, we have a wonderful Food Connection Story Builder (see illustration below) that is available to you that will essentially walk you through creation of your Story:
Not everyone is comfortable with the medium of the written word, so you can, alternatively, send us an illustration, an audio file, a photograph, a poem reflecting a Food Connection Story. And, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Mr. Rogers Had it Right
Mr. Rogers said:
From love comes all things--respect, dignity, connection, acceptance. And, where does love lead? To Unity!
So, consider connecting with another human being through the vehicle of sharing food. And, if you even remotely believe in people and the power of people to do good, share your recipes and your Food Connection Stories in Food Tapestry. Become part of the solution, become the ripple in the pond of Hope and help us create Unity in America. That’s Our Recipe for Unity.
See you around the table!