If I say “taste the rainbow,” would you think of Skittles? That image of Skittles falling to the ground like raindrops comes to my mind. When I was younger, I used to get Skittles confused with M&M’s. They may not taste the same, but both are heavily advertised, multi-colored discs. And both are common treats I could find in my Halloween bag.
Food is amazing in that way. It is more than simply nutrition–or, for Skittles, lack of nutrition. I never liked Skittles very much, although I remember commercials, personal experiences, and holidays that concern this candy.
I recently had the opportunity to design my own rainbow. (Literally, not in the “somewhere over the” sense.) Rainbow French toast: bread with a blueberry cream cheese filling, with fruits of every color (strawberries, oranges, bananas, kiwis, blueberries), topped with cinnamon and syrup. I wish I could say that the fruits made the meal healthy, but rainbow French toast is more of a dessert than a nutritious breakfast.
The meal, though, was more than food. It was bonding time among friends. It was a way of cheering me up after a rough few days. There was a story behind my food. It served more than a purpose of just feeding me. And this highlights an important idea about our food: it is more than just food.
Whether a wedding cake or brisket at shiva, food is the backdrop of happy and sad occasions. Whether Coca Cola or Pringles, food is an indicator of globalization and advertising. Whether matzo ball or wonton soup, food is steeped in ethnicity and tradition.
While this post served as a way to brag about rainbow French toast (and perhaps popularize its consumption), it also reminds us that food is culture, not just biology. And with that in mind, legislators must consider how food legislation will affect more than just our health.