In the last general elections that saw David Cameron return to the seat of Prime Minister in the UK, food and farming wasn't much seen in the political campaigns and was given minimal space in the manifesto. Food and farming makes for a strong base of the economy and economical health of a nation, and ought to be discussed with more fervour than what we saw last time.
Politics provides a large base to discuss political attitudes towards food and farming. To think that global warming, climate change and economy can be discussed without including food is somewhat a peculiar situation. The lack of detail on agricultural policy, which will in turn trigger debates on trade and commerce does more harm than good to any country.
Because, whether we like it or not, racism is not just skin deep. It is also about respecting each others' food practices and by that way, culture as well. Luckily for Europe, the Indian curry has come to be the most adored leveler, what with major number of Indians to have settled on their soil since generations. This does open up the talks on spice route, a country's acceptability of the other community and thus, the trade relations with other nations.
Chinese cuisine, given its simplicity and longer shelf life, has come to be accepted in most parts of the world as well. The fact that traditional Chinese cuisine is never the 'take out' version of what we consume is a point apart. But, and mostly that, kitchens are where secularism actually comes under fire and quite literally that is.
Because appreciating food culture is deeper than superfluous acceptance of culture from another land. Which is why, when it comes to Europe, food becomes a part of discussion whenever politics takes the centre table.
Europe, for instance, had this elaborate food preparation methods till late 16th century before British colonialised India and other spice growing nations. The chief trade then was silks, valuables and spices which fueled the lifestyle of upper class Europeans. With the colonialisation, spices became common and widely available. So much so that even the middle class could afford them. Then the cultural shift happened where food was the first casualty. France and UK changed their food preparation styles, to keep it basic and raw thus upping the game by a massive step.
What started then, the denouncement of spices, continues to be the space where politics is played. Actually speaking, except for gourmet dishes among the creamy layer of some European nations, all other countries have their own version of infusing spices into their food which aids better health. But then, the shift when done with class consciousness, is hard to erase from the history of people's practices.
This brings us to the point of discussing common ground. What can open the home and hearts of people to something beyond token secularism? Food festivals, says modern economics, are going to be the next big issue where policies can be put to test. Will you allow yourself a gastronomic sense and experience delight when you taste food from different parts of the world?
In a global village, food has become a major topic of discussion where people meet over pots where cultures come to melt and give away heartwarming aroma.
Autumn for instance, is the time when food festivals kick off in Europe, actually aiding the gourmet dreams to gain shapes and flavours and open their hearts while tickling their tastebuds. Events like Abergevenny or Guernsy food festival, apart from hosting foods from across the continents, also organise talks and open discussions where people can bring more than food to the table. In the nearby Ireland, a gourmet feast will also take place, taking the discussions further at Galway. Alba Truffle Festival celebrating Italian cuisine will have food lovers discussing food over politics or vice versa.
Such spaces and spices are essential in the modern world where internet has shrunk the geography and taking advantage of this fact are companies like Spicely and Starlys Spice. It is time our minds opened up too along with tastebuds and get further down to be internalised inside our bodies. Secularism, after all, isn't just a mind game.