We Are What We Eat

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. -Simone Weil

On this humid Wednesday morning, we reconnect with Elizabeth’s P4 classroom matched with SPARK Elementary School in Atlanta. The students, although this is only their second time with us, are eager as they form the large circle. Shoes come off quickly, just as they did last time, in anticipation of getting down on the floor to create. Attention is focused and anticipation fills the air.

Colorful profiles filled with foods the students eat are passed around the room. This is seen as a little silly, and also fascinating at the same time. The teachers are particularly shocked to hear the inspiration is a 16th century artist, Arcimboldo. We are just as delighted to watch the students trace profiles from shadows on the walls and floor as they are to be doing so. After this commotion of excitement passes, they settle on the floor, feet kicked in the air, and begin their own stylistic masterpieces. Crayola crayons (made from solar energy) brighten the grey floors, and fill profiles of local fruits and vegetables. The profiles reflect a culture steeped with messages, which are written everywhere in Ghana from chairs, to windshields, and walls.

For better or worse, if we are what we eat, these reflective profiles show that Ghanaians are a lot more natural and local, and Americans are more processed and from greater distances, when it comes to food. The rhythm of their eating is connected to the seasons, and therefore the weather. We have watched farmers at this time of year, contemplatively pace and take stock of the fields, and gamble on the right time to plant the seeds. Whether or not the rains come, means a lot more than the clearing of air, or the cooling of temperatures. Right timing is survival. At home, bounties of fruits and vegetables can be found nearly year round even though they are not in season locally. Some more food for thought, reflected in the cross-cultural exchange of art.