I had dinner with my parents the other night. When I walked in the door, my dad said, "I was going to make pork with squash." That's his code for: "Michelle, why don't you make dinner with the above-named ingredients and try not to mess it up." The pork was leftover huli-huli pig(spit-roasted whole over kiawe with garlic, ginger, and lemongrass). The squash was that long green Asian squash that I don't even know the name for. My father and brother raise pigs, and grow the squash at the edge of the pig-pens where they are irrigated and fertilized by the piggery run-off. So I cooked some rice, peeled and chopped the squash, sauteed garlic, ginger and onions, threw in the the squash for a bit before the pork, covered, cooked, stirring a couple of times for, say, 20 minutes. Totally easy, nutritious, tasty, soul-satisfying, and it all cost less than $3 in bought ingredients (rice, onions, garlic).
The next day I was in Honolulu with a little extra time to spare, so I went to Whole Foods for some market research. Whole Foods is the ne plus ultra of value-added retail venues in Hawai'i, so I like to just look around and see what they're onto. I saw my friend Lorie Obra's Ka'u coffee "Rusty's Hawaiian" prominently displayed so that was worth the trip in itself. I also noticed that WF was carrying tiny goat loin-chops. I wanted to get some gifts for the friends that were putting me up for the night. I got a bottle of wine, artisan olive bread, two bars of super-premium chocolate (one spiked with chilies, the other with bacon(!)), and marinated olives. That cost me $75. The person in front of me spent $250. The place was a-buzz with beautiful people, there was excellent music on the sound system, and gorgeous prepared food everywhere you looked.
You could hardly have two more extreme experiences of food. Both were enjoyable, although so different. The big difference, to me, is that in our dinner at home the food just came right up out of our lives as a family, the work that we do, and the place where we live, mostly unpackaged and raw. In the other case, the food was also part of a lifestyle, but it was lifestyle as an assemblage of products for the purchasing. Of course there are all kinds of other ways of experiencing food, but the contrast struck me as near the two ends of the spectrum.