#73 Deborah MacNamara | Nourished: Connection, Food, and Caring for Our Kids

FB Deborah MacNamara

🗓️ Recorded June 12th, 2024. 📍 Friheden Stations Parking Lot, Denmark

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About this Episode 

Deborah MacNamara, author of "Nourished: Connection, Food, and Caring for Our Kids (And Everyone Else We Love)," emphasizes the importance of emotional and physical nourishment in child development. As a clinical counselor and educator, she is known for her work on emotional health and her previous book, "Rest, Play, Grow," which explores attachment-based developmental approaches influenced by Dr. Gordon Neufeld. Deborah is also on the faculty of the Neufeld Institute, helping families navigate parenting and child development.

Food is more than fuel—it's the foundation of family bonds and cultural heritage. In our conversation with Deborah, we explore how mealtime fosters meaningful relationships. Drawing from her expertise at the Neufeld Institute, she shares insights on transforming family meals into rituals of togetherness and love.

We discuss how shared meals nurture community, cooperation, and restfulness and the challenges families face in maintaining these traditions. We provide practical steps for integrating shared meals into busy schedules, emphasizing the importance of slowing down and making intentional family connections.

Listen as we delve into the cultural and relational significance of food. Deborah highlights food as a symbol of care and connection, examining how intentional food preparation and sharing reinforce family bonds and cultural traditions, making mealtime a cherished experience for all.

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Jesper Conrad 

AUTOGENERATED TRANSCRIPT

00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Today we are together with Debra McNamara. First of all, thank you for taking the time. Debra, wonderful to see you.

00:06 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Lovely to meet you as well. Thank you for having me.

00:09 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, I would like to start with talking about food and gatherings and all of this, and this is, of course, because you have written your newest book. It's called Norris, and then it has a long subtitlele which I will let you tell. So if we can take the title of the book and then dive into the subject of why nourishment on mental and physical level is important for being a parent, Great.

00:38 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Well, the book is called Nourished, a connection, food and caring for our kids and everyone else we love, and the book was not something I ever intended to write about in terms of the intersection between food and attachment. It came about as I was working at the Neufeld Institute alongside Gordon Neufeld, working around being a parent educator, parent counselor, understanding attachment, developmental approach, and came to Gordon with my questions about my picky eater, who was about three years of age. At that time I had one child who wasn't and one child who was, and he wouldn't answer my question about how to feed her. And I grew very curious about that and upset, and it began a long conversation trying to understand what had come apart and what it was that he was trying to help me see, which was essentially that it's not about the food, it's about who feeds you. Now I mean I say that I mean, of course, food, what you eat matters, but at the end of the day, the receptivity that we want in our children actually comes through the relationship and not necessarily the food, and we've turned these things upside down. I hadn't seen that.

01:53
As a parent, I was very focused on, you know, getting nutrition in, worried if she wasn't eating enough, worried if she wasn't eating the right food. How do I, you know, make sure she's healthy and keep her alive and vibrant? How do I make sure she's healthy and keep her alive and vibrant? But I didn't realize. Even as an attachment-based developmentalist, I didn't see my relationship as critical to the feeding endeavor, and that surprised me a lot, and it took me a long time to understand that. And I realized that it's something that has come undone and has become broken as we've lost our food cultures and our food waste. That food is now fuel. It's about nutrition and the relationship has become eclipsed. So that's what the food the book is about essentially and just for the listeners.

02:39 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So where do you live in the world? Oh, vancouver, british, columbia, canada yeah, just because it's not exactly the same culture everywhere in what we call the western world.

02:50
So now that we are talking about the specifics of how we eat and how how the culture is around eating, and very fast, I suppose we will end up in the relation to the body itself. That also is different in the different corners of the Western world. So I think, as we are Scandinavian and you're from Canada, we're actually far apart. Maybe I don't know, but maybe not in the style.

03:19 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
We have traveled a lot during the last six years and one of the interesting things as we sometimes when we travel, we co-live with people and then we see the different cultures around food and we have just spent three months in the states this spring and it was a lot of takeaway people took in and also, if we're talking about carrying true food, then there was not a lot of gathering going on. People came out and ate and some people eat in front of the telly and there's something around the culture. In your book I know you go deeper into why is the gathering around the table important?

04:04 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
I know you go deeper into why is the gathering around the table important? Yeah, what the research found is essentially that we've long held this belief that if we eat together, beside each other, that there's connection and it's good for everybody. However, as a counselor, as a, you know, working with families and working with individuals, I have also seen that the table and coming together around food is also a place of wounding great wounding, and sometimes there's a lack of it. So this idea that it's a panacea for connection doesn't get at what it is, that you know, what is the relationship that's supposed to be here between food and human beings? You can sit beside someone and be quite annoyed with them. That isn't connection. So it's not about the food, it's the context, and we've lost our context In North America. We've lost the context for eating, and that is very clear.

05:02
What the research shows is that the families that are more likely to have meals together and to gather have one thing in common, and that is a caretaker with a specific set of values and beliefs, and that is that togetherness is important. So they use the family meal as a means of bringing people together because it's one of the best things we have. We have to eat so often Our stomach's empty. Nature was quite clever this way. We need each other. How else better to harness that need for togetherness than to keep us hungry, not just only for food but relationship. So it's the pairing of it. But North America, I think our eating habits is probably one of the worst exports we have for around the world.

05:47 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, have you looked into the different religious aspects? The reason I ask is I have this idea about. I have some Jewish friends here and there and they're the culture around meeting on a sunday for the and but eating together.

06:09 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It's strong yeah, and in spain and they're not jewish. No but they meet on sundays for for the family lunch.

06:16 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Yeah, I mean that's very powerful in spain still, yeah yeah, and it was in my, my uh family history and my parents who immigrated from England. The family roasts on Sundays and inviting guests over was very much part of the tradition the Sunday seen as a day of rest. It's not in every culture or religion Sunday is not the day of rest, but there was a sense of having a day of the week where rest happened. One of my good friends is Jewish and she sits. She sat Shabbat with me. One of my good friends is Jewish and she sat Shabbat with me and it was beautiful, a wonderful way to end the week and welcome in the weekend and a sense of rest. And so you see, our feasts and our celebrations that were encoded in different rituals were really about getting us to rest in the presence of each other and bringing us together around ritual food, feast, our beliefs, our practices. It's the same ingredient underneath, essentially.

07:09 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah.

07:11 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I'm thinking about as a counselor as well, I've been talking to a lot of parents about food and picky eaters and do we have to sit down at the dinner table? It seems like a nightmare and but really, and I came to a point where I realized in the culture that we have, where we separate the family every morning we go to each our corners and we break the bond of attachment when we leave our kids with strangers. The family meal in the afternoon or evening is when we bring it all back together and have to repair all these things, all the wounds that we made in the morning and we have to try to become one again after experiencing different things, all of us all day, most of the family usually being too tired to do this mental, emotional work and for a long time, lots a big part of the family usually being too tired to do this mental, emotional work and for a long time, lots a big part of the family would be too young to do this work. So I actually very often tell people to forget about the food in the situation, because you know doesn't matter what they eat, because it's not about the food.

08:26
So when you come back with your children in the afternoon. Feed them something healthy in front of the telly or whatever they want, read them a story, take a shower and just lay it out there, eat right, sitting on the kitchen counter, and then, when you sit down for the meal, it's not about eating, it doesn't matter. What matters is the togetherness that you have, this ritual of coming together repairing the wounds, and maybe maybe some days of the week, the dinner table is not the way to do it. Maybe some days of the week you go for a walk or you go to bed early and read 10 fairy tales, or you know, it could be other things. But I realized that the two layers, especially for younger children, who's been separated from the family the entire day, the two layers need to be understood. And now you say I have to bring it back together, which I agree with, but I don't agree with the separation in the morning.

09:28 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
So you said a lot there and a lot of I know I'm sorry, I'm bad, but it's all in check.

09:34
Yeah, no, it's all interconnected and that's the thing. It's hard to tease apart each little separate part, because they really do belong together and so you know we weren't meant to tease it apart. I think so carefully. However, when things aren't working well, that's really all we've got left with now is to actually examine what's come undone. So the key construct I want you to forget about say we didn't have a table right. Say we could just trust that a caretaker would make the best choices about food that was available to feed their families. Let's just put the food business in the hands of the caretaker and say they're going to make the best decision they can, because I trust parents and I trust that they'll make the best decision that way. So say we could assume that. Say it wasn't about the table.

10:15
Then what is it about? What is it about at the essence? It's an invitation for dependence. That's all attachment is. It's an invitation for dependence, but you can't. You can love someone, but you can't feel cared for by them unless it's expressed in some sort of form or fashion. So food becomes the form in which we express our love and which moves into caretaking.

10:42
So, at the essence, what feeding and eating is about is about a relationship of dependence. You have a gift, which is the food. You have a receiver, which is the child or the individual, and you have the giver, and it is the relationship between those three things that must come together in a way that brings us to rest. If you have that, you could be on the space station eating, you could be having a picnic outside, you could be a child in a child care setting where you feel very connected to your caretaker, your substitute adult. That could be possible for some young children if it was more of a family constellation of care and that child could come to rest in the care of that adult and that food could then be used for its intended purposes, as the gift that it is to nourish us fully body, heart, spirit, mind.

11:35
And so we get so caught up in what food are we serving? Where do we eat it? What's the best recipe? Who you know we should be concerned about? Who's feeding our kids? Do they have a relationship to that person? So we need to ask different questions. And but we do need to ask questions, but we need to replace the ones that we're asking with relational, developmental questions. You know how do I help my child explore food around them? How do they play with the food? How do they come to know food for themselves? How do I create a climate where they feel safe enough to explore tastes and textures and not feel pushed or coerced? Those would be the questions that I would want to replace our current ones with.

12:21 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I have a little jump here to a, because one of the things that struck me with some of the things about your book is the taking care part, um, and for example, after 20 years of marriage, I have now started to make coffee to my wife from time to time.

12:43 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Oh, we can still count it.

12:45 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Only you said that's okay, but let me tell my sorry. Let me tell the story. So when I look back and I'm like, oh man, how stupid have I been when we got to what's a child number four, cecilia. To the story is that I was not very good at making coffee. I didn't drink coffee myself, so I didn't care a lot how it ended up tasting. But I forgot the whole taking care of my wife part in it. And when we were around child number four, my solution was to buy an espresso machine. She could hit with one button and then it would make a coffee. Then I have taken care of her. I'm like, oh man, where was the love in that? Where was so? Yeah?

13:37 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
well, I wouldn't get better I wouldn't, uh, I would thank you for an espresso machine. Um, there was some thoughtfulness in it. Um, you know the I had a client once who in the story in the book and he actually had retired and he realized that the key to his, uh, success going forward in terms of his marriage was bringing his wife a cup of coffee each morning and checking in for 15 minutes. And I just thought the simplicity of it. You know, the simplicity of the invitation. You know, if my daughter says to me, can we go out for a, you know, a lavender latte, or you know, I realized that she's not really just asking for a lavender latte.

14:12
We don't need to drink a coffee with someone else, we don't. You know, we can eat alone. That is possible, but it's not nature's intentions, and why isn't it? And that's the most important question. And there's many ways that we can take care of people, even if you don't get coffee. There's many ways we can take care of people and love can be expressed. But food, I have to say, when it is given without being asked or told, is one of the most easiest, most readily available things that we have to express our care to each other.

14:47 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I will also say and this just comes from a personal experience level sharing the meals. There's like this heartbeat of life in it. Really. We skip it sometimes, but usually as a family we share two meals every day.

15:08
So we sit down for lunch and we sit down for dinner all of us at the same time and we eat more or less the same thing. We make something, we put it in the middle of the table and we share it. Sometimes we skip it, and usually we put it in the middle of the table and we share it. Sometimes we skip it and usually we regret it. Yeah, usually we feel like, oh, that day was weird, because it's this check-in point and it's this moment for us to feel the community of our family. We're together all the time the kids are homeschooled and we live in a van I mean, it's not like we're never very far away from each other but still to have this moment set aside for just having a little conversation, cooperating, a little bit sharing, which is a great thing. If there's only half a cucumber, we all have to hold back on the cucumber and have a conversation about buying 10 more tomorrow, the whole thing.

16:04 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
When we don't do it, we regret it yeah, yeah, and there's also that sense that you know to eat and to digest your food, just like if you're going to sleep, you have to be at rest. If you're going to digest your food, just like if you're going to sleep, you have to be at rest. If you're going to digest your food, you also need to be at rest. The idea that we should be working and also eating doesn't understand how our body works well, and so actually coming to rest and not having to focus on work or problem or task, and just coming into relationship with your daily nourishment, whatever that might be, you might be on your own, but you might be connecting, you know, to a particular meal with a memory, or to you know how fresh the strawberries are, and feeling taken care of by Mother Nature, like coming to see food as a gift, actually nourishes you far beyond just what happens with each other, and so the levels of relationship are are multiple. It's relationship to oneself is coming to rest in one's way back, people and ancestors and what they ate or recipes passed down. Its relationship to the land and who and how we are being fed and what we're eating and what it connects us to, like.

17:15
There's tons of research to show that when people return to when I've looked at sort of the research in Canada around our Indigenous peoples that returning to not their original source of food actually reduces tons of health-related issues. And then returning to say, on the West Coast, the salmon and the bannock and the potatoes that were once grown on the land, you know the herring and the roe, and this actually has health benefits. Why? Because you're coming home. You're coming home to your history, your ancestors, to your land, to yourself. And so this is this beautiful relational sphere that we're meant to enter into with food, not simply just to grab a sandwich, you know, shovel it down, get back to work.

18:07
That's the industrial model of eating. That isn't a cultural way and that isn't a relational way. And that's what's really important is that we're so stuck in it we can't even see ourselves outside of it anymore, unless you have the benefit of going to some, you know, places on earth where it's still preserved, where relationship is still preserved, um in, uh, you know, in the eating and feeding process yeah, um, besides reading your book, which I think people should do, then if you are a mom working and your two parents are working, you come home and what are your suggestions they should do?

18:47 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
because I would, uh, if you don't have the structure in your family where you cook and everything I know cecilia sometimes. I will get to a question. I know cecililia sometimes uses hours and hours in the kitchen and when we co-live, we really enjoy working in the kitchen together with our friends. I'm just imagining being two parents going to work and now they're like oh, now I also need to make a gathering and just being more stressed out. So where should you start and how should you go about?

19:20 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
it. Yeah, this is a great question. Well, it makes you realize number one, that I don't think we're meant to do all of this on our own. You know as we do, and so it just doesn't seem to make sense, this nuclear family trying to survive on their own. It doesn't make sense.

19:33
Number two one of the things that I hear people say is they actually feel a sense of relief when they read nourish, because they realize they don't have to go to such great sort of feasts and extravaganza. That it's just merely that, that sense of dependency. You know you're taking your child to soccer and you're making them a shake or a smoothie because you know they're going to need something. It's that act of dependence where you just slow everything down, you sit together and you make sure they have something before they go off to their next activity. So it doesn't have to be grand, it just has to be about dependence and relationship and offering that is then received or not received, and the invitation is still there. The other thing I was very curious about this question okay, how are families doing this today with two, you know? You know working parents. I'm in that category myself, and so I did try to make more things from homemade and more things from scratch. And I can tell you, between cooking and then cleaning and then having to cook again and then clean again, and three meals a day, I thought this is impossible. I would have to cut back my work hours to be able to provide for my family like this. So if parents get takeout or they get prepared food, I think that is a good sacrificial play. If you can get the best that you can get or buy prepared stuff and finish it up at home, there are time savings that families are doing because they can't make. It Is a sacrificial play, I think yes, in some ways it is, but the reality is, is what's most important food or the relationship, save time to come together around food, which is most most critical for health reasons? Obviously, the more that we can make homemade, the better. Often it can be if we, if we can pay attention to that.

21:17
The the issue that when I asked this, what I actually found in my research participants and I researched, I did qualitative interviews with 50 families right around the world and then I did over 200 plus surveys and I asked this question and what I found is that families are trying to negotiate or figure out based on the time that each person has, if there's more than one person available, if it's a single parent, oftentimes children are helping out more, but they're negotiating it. It's not just set in stone who's going to do the cooking. Sometimes it's you're picking up groceries, I'm doing this, you're cleaning up, and in the best case scenario, there was an interchange, a sharing of tasks. That also required more communication, more dialogue back and forth. Who's doing what? More coordination, I would say.

22:06
By and large, though, women tended to do more of the work around food, but I also found a couple of men who were also taking the lead in their home, you know, and doing preparation, from food to cooking, and so it was just, it was about what worked for the family and what the individuals who came together to you know sort it out in terms of the context of their life work, knowledge, comfort, desire. So women it still falls to women most of all, all I would say, but there is a shift to change this up and not see it just as women's work. It's everybody's, but someone has to step up to say they're going to take care. Who takes the lead, who assumes responsibility? How do we do that? If we share that, those are the key questions that we need to ask. So yeah, there's no one prescription. There's no one prescription here anymore. There can't be. It's too complicated with the nature of our work did you look into saying grace also?

23:10 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I asked because in in our american visit and with some american friends we have in germany wonderful family we live with. Every time we pass in and out of Denmark they have a song, they sing or they say grace and some part of me is like, ah, it's a little weird, but when we leave and I come to a new place and people just put stuff on their plate, I'm like hey, something is missing. I actually miss it sometimes. So so have you looked at that as part of your research?

23:42 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Yes. And so what grace represents is that anytime you go into a place that we are meant to come to rest, there has to be a shift in a doorway between work mode to play or rest mode. And so what happens is in our rituals, when we our song, when we see a grace, a prayer, a poem, a reflection, we'd be quiet for a minute. Doesn't matter what it is. It's to demarcate the transition between work to rest, so every family could have a different ritual. That way you could light a candle, you could just sit down and be quiet. You know there could be a boisterous song, you know, in every different nationality I tried to look for, you know cheers, or bon appetit, or que previce or sláinteve, or you know just different ways to express, to say cheers. And there's this sense of you know coming together to say this has begun, Enjoy your meal and relish, and so it pushes you into that rest mode. So that's why it's important.

24:43
It can have religious connotation or not, it can. It reflects who you are essentially. But it's important because it's a signal Like how do you know how to drive? You know on a road, red, you know yellow, uh, or green. You need signals to know what is my next move here and it becomes a cue for the body. Then the body knows okay, this is a rest mode. And the more you repeat it, the quicker you can get into that rest mode, which is the benefit of pattern repetition, that neurological wiring that allows us to go better into that rest mode.

25:16 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Sort of reminds me of another phenomena that took me some years to understand the importance of, and that's board games. I'm thinking about how the family we live with now. They don't say grace or sing a song, but we do have the culture of coming together in the evening sitting down sharing a great meal that the husband is a chef, so it's always lovely food and what does happen is the table is set, the food is there, we light the candles, everybody's waiting, no one starts eating until everybody arrives, which can sometimes be annoying because we're a lot of people and it's like oh man, it's going cold, but we wait yeah

26:00
and and the key, the cue for starting the meal is usually just the word okay, yeah, but that's a recognition. We're all here now, we will nourish our bodies and we will spend this half hour or hour or more together and we'll all stay, except for the younger children. There are no rules really, but most of us sit down until everybody's done eating, except for some of the teenage boys. They can eat like forever. So, but you know it's not, it's not strict, but there is a system to it that we're sharing this time. We're sharing this, we all. We take the time for it. We sit down, we praise the food if it's especially good, or we talk about it.

26:47
We talk about our day and there are rules to this situation. There are things you can talk about and things you cannot talk about, and you take turns starting the the conversations. It can't be one person talking all the time. That's a culture. That's something you learn by doing it, from being a little child. You grow up and you learn to participate in the conversation around the table. There's do's and don'ts. It's a little bit like a board game. You come together, you sit, you have all your things lined up, you have the rules and you agree to stay until the game is done, because if one person leaves, the game is ruined. And it's the same thing with these meals. No one wants to have them, only half of us. No one wants to have them, like not at the same time that some start and then some arrive, and then it's like a train station so I'm just thinking that.

27:43
So board games we know that humans have been playing games since forever and these meals, sharing, sitting down, sharing, probably having some rituals around it is it's deep in our dna but, that's how it's supposed to be. I think yeah.

28:01 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
I absolutely agree. I think our systems are I mean, we know our systems are wired to flip into work or rest mode, and rest mode is critical for survival. However, north American culture is very much driven by a work mode and the rest modes have been, are constantly challenged, if not eradicated, underneath a materialistic pursuit. And, and so this becomes the challenge for the rest mode. It doesn't get. It only gets noisy when you start to burn out or there's decay or distress or, you know, disease. That's when the the cause cause.

28:38
We can operate in a work mode for a very long time. Nature was wise in terms of our own survival. However, there is a cost, there is a sacrificial play, and so we look at our stress related illnesses, our burnout, our mental health. We look at, you know, addictions. You could. You could look at this in many different ways to say, well, what is the message here? We can't live in a work mode, we have to get to a rest mode. But the rest mode doesn't add to the gross domestic product or economic gains it does.

29:06
If you actually did a really good analysis of it and you weren't so short-sighted, you would actually see that arrested individuals are more creative, more problem solving easier to get along with. You know individual more productive in the long term easier to get along with. You know individual more productive in the long term. So this is, this is why this is so critical, because it is been, it's been the way that our ancestors figured out and encoded in cultural wisdom and passed on to us. These are the ways that we enter into feeding, into eating, that there must be a play mode, a day of rest in the week, that the end of the day there must be some tidying up. You know the ending of the day has to be tidied up a little bit. Our stories, our games. You know my way back.

29:47
People come from Ireland and part of the. You know the music that was paired then with the dancing and with singing and eating and coming together is as I listened to the stories of some ancestors, they say this is what saved us, it brought us together, and not just one form of play, but many singing, music, dancing, eating, storytelling. They had it all and gifted, gifted in all of those areas. So no wonder they were able to survive such incredible hardship. So, yes, we are it, it is, it is hardwired, it is cultural, but it is lost in north america and, unfortunately, I think we are exporting these this work.

30:28 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
The export is big. We are not far behind, yeah sure, I mean no, to be honest understanding its ground.

30:44 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think I might be naive, but I kind of think so. In the South, people sit down to eat. They sit down to eat. They do it. In France, the meals are still four courses.

30:58 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But it's also the people we are together with.

31:02 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
No, it's not just that, no. And up here in Scandinavia there's like this big flagship of the dinner. You sit down at 5.30 because the kids have to be to bed early and they have all their nice chairs and all their organic things and it's nice and it can even be a little bit too much, a little bit too strict. It has to be healthy food and everybody sit down at the same time and you eat nicely and you use your fork and become so much and I'm like and how old is the child?

31:32
Two, Maybe you could A little bit, so the idea, the value of the shared meal at the end of the day, the idea that the good parents they make the shared meals you don't eat in the couch, all of these things.

31:51 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Well, I would say to that. To that I would say that you know what you were describing is rigidity in a meal. That is not a restful place I would rather eat in front of like. Sometimes, if families there are challenges, sometimes there's an empty chair at a table because there's a loss of a parent you go eat on the couch, go eat and play board game together. You do what you need to do to find a way to bring your child into relationship and food together. Sometimes it's difficult. Food food can create, like food was meant to serve togetherness. But sometimes food is encoded with stress and distress, like allergies or genetic illnesses or the loss of somebody or your own challenges around food and what it's connected to. And so how do we repair that? Sometimes we actually do have to move away from the table and so to so think of it very fluid in the sense of how do I invite my child to rest in my care with food? It's greatest, it's greatest, you know invitation come, rest in my care.

32:57
Because food is very vulnerable. It's a very vulnerable thing. You have to ingest it and that means that impacts the interior of your world and it could hurt you and harm you. You know you think about poisoning and all that kind of stuff. You know it's a very vulnerable thing to take something into your body. So it's about dependence. Does this person trust me to take care of them? You know you can see.

33:20
If a child was in a store and someone was at a food tasting center and they said you know, do you want some food? The child should, hopefully you know. No, I don't know you. I'm not meant to be fed by you. It doesn't make sense. It's not about the food, it's about okay, do I have a relationship here? That's what we're really trying to preserve.

33:41
So you do it any way you want to do it, as long as there's receptivity. Put some ritual in there, treat food as a gift, if you have that. I think that goes back to the very core of what most of our cultural traditions are. A shared meal is lovely, a feast is lovely oh my goodness, it's the epitome, you know, of celebration. But to your point, as you said, jesper, you know what do you do if you can't do that every night? What do you do if you're out on a boat, in a military ship for six months of the year? What do you do? What do I do when my daughter's away at university, I cook meals, I freeze it and I put it in the freezer you know, for her and say, you know, at the end of the day, here's your Thai chicken curry and here's your butter chicken and oh, did you like it? We have a conversation point.

34:30
I'm not there, but I make sure that I have some things available for her which represent my caretaking, represent her home, represent the smells, the sights, the touch, the taste, so that I can bring through the senses that gift of relationship, so broaden and blow out this sense of how does food become a vehicle through which we transmit our culture, our relationships, sharing seeds from one generation to the other, like in Mexico, oftentimes, when you get married, you get the seeds of your chili peppers to make your spicy stuff with, and so, yeah, passing on of recipes is very much of the sacred recipes you don't dare change because it's sacrilegious to the person who gave it to you. This is about that cascading care that comes in, or to you know, harvesting vegetables and feeling cared for by, by nature. It's that, you know, 360 relational endeavor that matters here, that puts you into relationship with each other, with the earth, with yourself. That's the best expression of it with the earth, with yourself.

35:41 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
That's the best expression of it. Have you ever had you ever thought you should go down such a rabbit hole about nourishment and food?

35:47 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
I just wanted to feed my child some carrots. I did not need to write this book. It is not the one that I thought I would, but it. You know, like most most things when you get. I realized when I was talking to Gordon about my picky eater that the answers I sought were so much bigger than the questions that I was asking and that my question itself was diagnostic of what had come undone.

36:14 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah.

36:19 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
But I didn't know that. I was caught up in it and it's like trying to grab it, something that you feel is quite fleeting, that you see and you feel is there. And when I do travel, like when I went to italy, oh my goodness, it was just like it felt like home. But I could see the disconnection also there and the tension still in their culture around it and in france as well, this tension that something is pulling these things apart and I think at the root of it it's this, it's this work, uh, rest mode, and this push, this push ahead. You don't get rewarded for going in a rest mode in the short term. You do in the long term, but the short term cycles, it doesn't move the dial.

37:01 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Except for the fact that in rest mode the distance to the moment, to being present in the moment, is shorter. And maybe you know, staying in your moments in life and feeling your heartbeat and your taste buds, and paying attention to the clouds and the birds, and in that way the rest mode is, it gives instant reward. But on the like, the scales of the modern world, with the whole success, thing, thing, no, you can't see it it doesn't look like accomplishment, and accomplishment is more or less everything. It's the golden standard now well said.

37:51 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Well, it's about survival now. I mean, for so many people it is about survival, having a place to live. Uh, then the challenges are so great right now, and geographic, you know. Displacement because of climate change and things like this is going to be on our doorstep more and more. So you're absolutely right that the gratification that one feels if one can be in the present and eat relationally, but how much money is going into products and services to try to help people stay in the moment? Like you look around in North American culture, there's someone around every door promising you ways to stay in the moment. We have them. It's not that we aren't able to do it, it's that our emotional systems are alarmed and are driven out of the rest mode because we think survival's at stake.

38:43 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah, what is there something that surprised you the most in your findings?

38:51 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
great question. What surprised me the most? Um, I think what surprised me the most, over and over and over again, how I kept running in to this area and having to reinterpret what exists, like the family meal, as the only place we can do togetherness. No, actually not. That nutrition is like Maslow's hierarchy that food came first. I'm like, oh my gosh. No, it didn't. Food was meant to be served in the context of relationship. Maslow got it upside down. Maslow was a traumatized child. He actually didn't have love.

39:32
Oh my goodness, he created a psychology out of his own unmet needs. Like every time I went into it, when I went into examining the gut, I'm like, oh my goodness, everything is wired together, like from your endocrine system to your immune system, to your emotional system, and how food interacts with that. It all comes together in the gut. It's brilliant. Nature's ways constantly were brilliant to try to bring us together, to help us to take care of each other. I could the beauty of it. I felt like I was stepping into something sacred and beautiful that I could only catch a glimpse of. That there is this whole. Nature is so wise in pairing these things together and culture preserved it, and culture preserved it.

40:21
You know, the most thing that shocked me and saddened me most of all was that I found from one research and I can't recall the name, I want to say Margaret Mead, but it might not be her when civilized, in her study of ancient civilizations and the ones that didn't make it that fell, the marker was that they all lost their culture. When culture broke down and couldn't preserve the unit of society, being the family, then the families couldn't protect their children and ancient civilizations. It was the number one marker of a civilization's demise that culture no longer preserved the ways. And I had, you know, goosebumps when I first read that because I thought, oh, my goodness, I feel like we're in the middle of. That. Has to be a different way. Could we become conscious of what is being lost in order to repair and find our way through? And that's my hope.

41:14 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah. So how do we start? Can we make a little pep talk for the listener? It's not about sitting down around the table.

41:26 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
What is?

41:26 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
it. What is the to do list To?

41:30 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
do list, well, is to see food as a gift. And so what gift is it that you want to give to your family that represents you, that represents your care, that is within your capacity to give? Is it, um, you know, finding a way to represent, through food, uh, your connection? It could be bringing someone a cup of tea or a cup of coffee.

41:50
It could be as simple as that I'm learning it's to let yourself be moved from that place to feel your yearning to take care of someone and to take that care and to push it into a symbol of food. Don't talk about the food, don't talk about your caring. Just make an offering and watch the receptivity and keep making an offering. Keep making an offering. Keep making an offering.

42:16 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Can I add something? I think offering, keep making an offering. Can I add something? I think? So you talk about the perspective, really that have this perspective on the food that you're making and sharing. That it's, it's part of the relation and that's the most important element of the food. But really, with the whole women's liberation and women are going to work and the lack of time and all this equality, it's become a job, a task, something that we fight over. I did the dinner last night and now you have to do it and, oh, it takes so much time and can we buy a quick fix somehow.

42:56
But I think when you make the meal meal, appreciate that you're doing something really important for your family.

43:02
It's not just about calorie production, it's about keeping the togetherness.

43:11
It's like if it was a ship, it's the thing between the, the pieces of wood that holds it all together. And when, if you appreciate that you're doing it for very, very good and important reasons, it's not just a shitty job that your grandmother also had to do and you have to fight for your freedom of not doing it, I think. I think that vibe can be really devastating and if we who it is usually the women, it is in my family, it is whoever does it, if they appreciate the importance of it, that it's not just a waste of time or something you're not leaving using your brain. You're not making any money, you can't tick any boxes, you just have to get it over with kind of thing. That's not the good vibe to make the food, whereas if you understand that this is a delivery system of care, this is protecting your relation and this is a very, very, very important glue that holds everything together and suddenly it becomes precious to cook for the family it does, and, and it knows no gender.

44:18 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
It knows no age, it knows no religion or gender identity or sexual orientation. It's just an act of caretaking. There's no difference here that should divide us. What we have to remember is that, in order to get women their work moved into the workplace outside of the home, that was the biggest sociological change in the last hundred years, and that is what survival requires now is two incomes. Feminists might argue that it's also about emancipation, economic equality and all sorts of other things. For sure, at the very basis of it, our children need to be taken care of. Our families need cohesiveness. How are we going to do that is still our responsibility, whatever the context and choices of our life are.

45:11
As a individual with a PhD, a full-time job and two children, I had to make decisions about where my time and my values and my desires were going to be expressed, and that is. If you have the luxury of making some decisions not everybody does then you make it. You make it around what is important to you, but someone needs to take the lead, someone needs to assume responsibility for this. We all need to be cared for, and food is its greatest expression. So it's an invitation for families to figure that out. And of course, if you want you know women to come in the home, out of the home, then you have to oftentimes devalue what they're doing in the home, and that devaluing costs us greatly. Our matriarchs held things together and were the key to survival in a different way, but that wasn't valued. So there is no honoring of the role that they played there and a demeaning of it. And and I think that's a great tragedy when Margaret Mead did her research in World War Two with Kurt Lewin, who was a psychologist, to say, how do we get people to eat more organ meats? Because they were shipping a lot of meat off to the war for soldiers who were fighting, and so they had. You can't just kill a cow and not use all of it. It's a waste. Everything had to be used, and so they needed people to eat more of the organ meats. But they weren't, and so they did a research project.

46:40
The government the US government said how do we get people to change their food habits? And the number one thing that it came back was you have to go to the caretaker responsible for food in the home. That is the only way that food habits change. So who gets marketed to now change. So who gets marketed to? Now the caretaker assumed responsible for food, and now directly to children to take it out of their caretaker's hands. Food marketers are going directly to children, who are then commanding what they want, and they're also going to try to meet the needs of the caretaker. How do we solve what they perceive as their biggest problem? And so it dislodges and displaces a system of care. So, yes, return to your caretaking. That's the message With food is the greatest delivery system.

47:31 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
As best you can.

47:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I would love to continue down this subject, but we also try to keep our podcast not too long, so I will ask with two questions. Questions, oh yes. The second is the short one, which is it would be wonderful, after you have answered the first question, if you can tell people where they can find more about you and your books. But the first question is can you taste love? Did your research say anything about that?

47:59 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Yes, it did. I asked every single person I interviewed can food have love in it?

48:04
and every single person said yes it does, and then and then I asked well, tell me how, how do you know that it does? And there were three things that they said when I collapsed everything into the themes. Number one time and attention. Did someone pay some time and attention to what I want? So you might make really bad coffee, but the fact that you spent time and attention in trying to make it mean something and it actually can taste better. That's what the research shows.

48:39
Number two what are the intentions behind somebody? What's the intention? Is it an act of love? Is it an act of caretaking, or are you just highly alarmed and have to get the carrot into the child's mouth? The intentions shape the nature of the experience. If the intention is one of caretaking, then you see that this goes a lot better and it feels like love.

48:59
And the last is caring. Was there caring in there? True, caring from the inside out, not someone who's trying to say I really care about you. That's why we make our ingredients this way, buy our package product. That's not caring, that's depersonalized. Caring from the inside out, from the person who made it for you. So, when it had time and attention, your own good intentions and caring, people said that's when food is embodied with love. And the last part is you can reach me, of course, on my website, mcnairca, and you can find Nourished bookstores online and Facebook, instagram and Substack. I actually started a new Substack newsletter called Gather to Eat just to focus in on this particular issue. So those are some of the ways, and the Neufeld Institute, of course, too.

49:48 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Perfect, debra, it was wonderful meeting you. Thanks a lot for your time.

49:54 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
We have to make some food now.

49:55 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yes, we actually have to make some food now. It's dinner time in Europe.

50:01 - Deborah MacNamara (Guest)
Wonderful, it was lovely to meet you both thank you for having me on it was a nice conversation, thank you.

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