“You are what you eat.” Heard this one before, right? Who hasn’t? But is there more to this saying than just the nutritional value, or lack thereof, of our food and how it effects our bodies?
What if you are literally what you eat? In other words, what if who you are, what if all those things that make you you is connected to what you consume?
The obvious and easy answer to this question is yes, of course. Many people have at least some connection with their cultural heritage which always means a connection with some type of food or dish in some way. But what about a connection with your favorite foods and dishes which have nothing to do with your cultural background? What about all those foods and dishes which grandma didn’t pass down to you that you can’t live without? Are those foods and dishes still a part of who you are as a person?
Aside from when I’d watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I didn’t give much thought while growing up to how some people really need certain foods in their lives. It seemed normal to eat certain foods while living in Fairfield County, and when my family traveled to Maine each summer to visit Great Grandma it seemed natural to eat certain foods as we drove the ten hour drive each July up the Eastern coast. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like driving home with live lobsters crawling around in the cooler for relatives in Connecticut who were promised live Maine lobsters. Seriously.
In fact, it wasn’t until several years ago when my husband and I (who were dating at the time) took a week long vacation to visit his newly married best friend just outside of Columbus, Ohio that I actually thought about how certain foods might help define who I am. Aside from their wedding a few months before our visit, I had never been to Ohio. As a naive young twenty-something at the time, I had assumed the entire country enjoyed Italian cuisine as we do in this part of the country. P.S. Italian food is my all-time favorite. I would eat it daily if I could, and I’m convinced my stomach is Italian even if my family tree says I am not (well, so far at least).
What did I discover after a week spent in Ohio? Ohioans are really friendly people, and to this day I always love to visit. How friendly? So friendly that after my years spent in New York City, the people of Ohio are always so friendly that it catches me off guard every single year. Ohioans love to eat, and we love to eat our way through many food spots every time we visit. But there’s no Italian food like we know Italian food here in Connecticut. There is no pizza as we Connecitcutians know pizza; no New Haven style or New York style pizza in Ohio (unless you count chains like Pizza Hut or Dominoes, which I do not) . And there are no Italian bakeries like we have in Connecticut and the greater New York City area.
About four days into our trip to Ohio I realized how important particular foods are to me as a person. And by the end of the week I was plotting where I’d stop for Italian food on the way home from the airport, and how desperate I was becoming for a slice of pizza or a proper meatball. In fact, our almost annual trip to Ohio means on the way home from the airport we stop somewhere for a pizza. Last year’s trip we stopped at Colony Grill in Fairfield on the way home; this year’s pizza stop has yet to be determined.
By the end of my first week-long visit to Ohio I realized three things: one – my hubby’s best friend’s wife and I were soon going to become best friends; two, that I can never move away from the New York City area; and three, how very essential Italian food, including pizza, is to my existence. Along with the sweet tooth, shoes, and books, Italian food is a big part of what makes me who I am as a person, and before this trip I hadn’t realized this.
Could I live without Italian food? Well, yes, I guess if I had to. But who wants to live without the things that make you happy? For me food is happiness and love – add the people you love and you have the perfect mix. There are memories and emotions tied up in there too, I cannot deny it, but overall certain foods are essential to what makes things right in the world for me. Food is part of my identity as a Fairfield County girl and as a Connecticut native in a way I was not aware of until I left my home state.
How about you reader, are you what you eat? Are there any local foods you feel you cannot live happily without?