Soul Food

Back in the 1970s I remember reading an American TV reviewer who pointed out that, at the time, the only programmes dealing with serious issues were comedies.

He used the example of ‘All in the Family‘ with its lead character Archie Bunker. Here’s an example, in two parts.

And,

The programme was an American version of the British comedy ‘Till Death Us Do Part‘ with the similarly bigoted lead in Alf Garnett.

Both series regularly tackled gender, race and even economic issues with ‘Till Death Us Do Part‘ having overtly political story lines in the continual tension between Alf and his live-in son-in-law:

I was reminded of this when some friends pointed out an excerpt from one of the ubiquitous ‘foody’ programmes that, along with reality shows, dominate television offerings (even to the detriment of Coronation Street).

It was the last place I thought I’d find not only attention to an important social issue but also clear indications of what kind of world works for people.

Here’s an excerpt from an episode of the BBC series ‘Two Greedy Italians‘:

Ties to family and community, caring and compassion, development of personal skills in the material provision of yourself and others – these are the conditions in which we thrive so it comes as no surprise that the San Patrignano ‘therapeutic community’ has all of these in spades.

The question is why so few of us now live in that kind of setting.

I’ve done my share of decrying the fare offered on broadcast television and the stifling preponderance of reality shows and cooking shows, but perhaps the lesson is that some people will find the opportunity to explore what matters in whatever guise they can.

Perhaps the culture of good food and its social production and consumption is so basic to our humanity that it is, after all, the most obvious way to see what matters. The Slow Food movement is based on that insight.

And, as it happens, I was told about this by good friends who, at the time, were providing me and my family with their home, food and hospitality through New Year’s Eve and, then, New Year’s Day.

Most of our time together we spent around the dining table, eating, talking, ranting and laughing.

So perhaps I should not be surprised that an episode of the, in some ways, misnamed cooking show ‘Two Greedy Italians‘ should light up my New Year and my hopes for it.

As Portia put it in The Merchant of Venice (Act 5, Scene i):

“That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

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