March 4, 2014

Women in Food

March is Women's History Month, and I invite you to honor the role of women in food. How do you see this role in your life, family, and community?

Here are some accounts of women in food history from historian Alice Ross.

It has been suggested that the division of food responsibility was a consequence of women's limited mobility, resulting from childbearing and extended periods of childcare. In any case, their familiarity with plants and their own identification with creating new life (the male role having been as yet unrecognized) were undoubtedly factors in their monumental innovation, the formation of the first organized agriculture (c. 8000 B.C.E.). Women often cooked grains and vegetables, singing songs about the food as they prepared it as a way to bind family and community as well as pass on food preparation methods to children.

Evidence of the high regard women earned is reflected cross culturally in the stories of universal origin even up to and including subsequent patriarchal systems. For example, in ancient Greco-Roman mythology, the story of Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agriculture and fertility, and her daughter Persephone (Proserpina) acknowledge women's responsibility for developing agriculture, the origin of growing seasons, and the agrarian skills that they taught people. In distant Mexico people worshipped Ceres' counterpart, the pre-Aztec Great Corn Mother known as Chicomecoatl; variants of her story abound. She is Earth Goddess who teaches how to grow food from her body. Often her body was sacrificed, as she demanded, so that her children could grow food on it. This is a constant reminder to her descendants to treat the land as their Mother.

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