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What canning peaches taught me about food

POSTED: August 31, 2017 10:49 a.m.
Paige Smathers/

Food, the rituals around it, and memories that come with it can create lasting connections. Can this really be what food is for?

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Years ago, my then 90-year-old grandma taught me how to can peaches.

We spent hours in the kitchen together, peeling, cutting, measuring, talking and laughing together. It was one of my favorite memories with her — she was so beautiful and radiated love as she showed me the art of canning she learned from her mother, and her mother learned from hers. It was a truly beautiful afternoon I'll always remember.

A few days ago, years after my beautiful grandma passed away, I finally got around to canning peaches again. I bought gorgeous fresh peaches from a local farmer's market, brought them home and began the same process of peeling, cutting and measuring just as I'd done with my grandma. This time, I was with my two young girls, showing them how it's done just like my grandma had done with me.

This experience had me thinking about food and what the eating experience can be without all the dieting and body image noise. So many of my clients see food as something to fight against — something to fear even. That's not really what it's about. Food is supposed to connect us; it's supposed to connect us to people and things outside of ourselves and, even more so, food connects us to ourselves.

I love how food, rituals around it, memories that come with it and all that the food experience brings can create connections. In the end, I really believe that's what food is for.

Canning those peaches and the entire experience around it connected me to my beloved late grandma. It helped me remember her and our times together and in some ways, she lives on through this small and seemingly insignificant tradition.

What food can teach us

Food and the need for it is a constant reminder of our humanity and dependence on people and things outside of ourselves. We need nourishment for our bodies and we have to look outside of ourselves for it and our hunger is a constant reminder of these needs.

Food grounds us and helps us learn abstract truths like: trust, love and interdependence. Food and our relationship with it teach us how to trust — to trust that your body will communicate its needs through hunger and fullness.

Trust that when you inevitably overshoot or undershoot your eating, your body will average things out. Food teaches us truths about love in that some of the most loving moments in life are around the table. Food teaches us that we need people and things around us to thrive.

Try thinking of food in this way. Instead of thinking of food as purely fuel or something to fight against, try approaching food as a way to connect. Notice how (or if) a different mindset around it helps you with whatever is going on with your relationship with food right now. Food can and should help you feel grounded and connected, not chaotic and discouraged. Look for ways to connect with yourself and others around food and notice how much more enjoyable the experience becomes.
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