Off the cuff: Making and consuming food central to our everyday lives


December 2016

In this ongoing feature, we ask IGR students and alumni each month for their opinion on a fun question that relates to issues that are discussed within IGR's courses and co-curricular activities.This month's question is: "Why is the practice of making and consuming food so central to our everyday lives?"

Enjoy this article and recipe presented by Shir Avinadev, Fourth-Year Student, College of LSA and IGR Office Assistant.


Why is the practice of making and consuming food so central to our everyday lives? Yes, it’s our sustenance, but it does more than just nourish us physically. It’s a tangible expression of who we are on both an individual and social-cultural level as well.

However, food is so ingrained into the fabric of our everyday lives that we don’t often pause to think about its broader cultural significance. My own connection to food has changed over the years, taking its shape from my family, community and life experiences. This connection changed most drastically when in high school, I moved back to Israel, my birthplace.

As I tried to assimilate to my new surroundings after having grown up in the U.S., I found myself craving the familiar foods I had taken for granted back home. Junk food that any respectable gourmand would scoff at became items I sought from friends and family visiting from the U.S. Whenever we’d return from a short trip to the U.S., my suitcase would be packed with Pop-Tarts and Easy Mac, quintessentially American snack-food aisle items. But once the supply ran out, I was once again left with the aching feeling of withdrawal.

I soon learned to fill this void by attempting to make some of my favorite American fare on my own. Chocolate chip cookies and homemade mac n’ cheese joined my arsenal and I gained a new sense of confidence and control over the form my life was taking in a new, strange environment. Funnily enough, after we moved back to the U.S. prior to the commencement of my college career, I found myself missing the slate of foods I had learned to love in Israel.

So, I got to work picking up my mother’s recipe — soul-warming shakshuka, herbed omelettes and shnitzel and rice topped with a squeeze of lemon. The foods that bring me comfort are most often those that bring back memories. And while comfort food varies from culture to culture, it shares a common thread in that it reminds us of our roots and our common humanity.

There’s something to be said for a nation that exhibits the wide array of culturally distinct culinary staples inherent to the American dining landscape. People have come to the U.S. from all over the world, bringing delectable tokens from their own cultures and taking comfort in those traditional cuisines by sharing them with others.

The recipes I’ve found comfort in no matter where in the world I am are those that demonstrate why food is so culturally significant. And our ability to share those comforts with one another make them all the more important.  

The next time you're looking for a soul-warming meal, try Shakshuka! 

Shakshuka Recipe:

2-3 eggs

1 Red bell pepper (diced)

1 8oz can crushed tomatoes

¼ cup white or yellow onion (diced)

1 clove garlic (crushed)

Olive Oil  



Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped fresh parsley if desired

  1. Sautée the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft.

  2. Add the bell peppers and cook until soft.

  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, cumin, paprika and salt and pepper and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

  4. Crack the eggs in, one at a time. Cover and let simmer until the whites are cooked through and the yolks are at the desired consistency (5-8 minutes for runny yolks).

  5. Top with parsley and feta (optional). Serve with thick, crusty bread and enjoy.