A Latino Perspective on Locavores - Comida vs. Alimento

A reader from Brazil recently made a keen observation about the infographic chart on food expenditures. He wondered if the high percentage of grocery purchases vs. dining out purchases in Los Angeles isn't so much because of health consciousness, which the chart suggests, but rather the high percentage of Latino immigrants who place a high value on what he calls "comida" or home cooking. I asked for him to tell me more about "comida" and below is his fascinating response;

In latin american countries (spanish and portuguese speakers) there are two terms for food: COMIDA and ALIMENTO. The majority of the people, even in those countries, do not pay attention to the difference until you ask them about. They scratch their heads and try very complicated answers. I always say, alimento is what MacDonald's and nutritionism gives to you, Comida is what your mum makes for you.

Alimento is the amount of assumed nutrients you need to stay on your feet, work like a chicken in an "egg factory" in order to make money to buy more alimento.

Comida is what you would call soul food: family together, people talking, warm fresh veggies, sweet potatoes with brown sugar and cinnamon in the morning (for southerners in your country), corn bread, laughing, crying, prayer, thanksgiving, culture, old histories, last morning histories, little ones learning who we are through food, love, fights,reconciliation, dating, having babies first meals, planning next lunch or dinner. This one hour of LIFE, that give us life, who we are, from where we come, memories to help us cross difficult times with hope.... well... this is comida.

I think the locavore/local food conversation among North American anglos like me has a lot to learn from the Latin food culture Claudio describes. Food is not just about sustainability, carbon footprints, food miles and nutritional content. Food is also about people we gather around the table with, learning who we are; laughing, crying, praying and giving thanks.

I want to say and ask more about this but am short on time. More later.