I sat down to dinner last night feeling quite proud of myself. That lasted all of about 30 seconds. I was proud of myself because I’d found time to make a dinner from scratch that my family really likes – pizza. But then I realized that, technically, to make something from scratch, you have to start from nothing. Ha! A laughable notion! I began thinking about just how much I started with, and how many people and places went into the food I “made from scratch.” Out of curiosity, I even looked at some labels to see where things came from. Here’s what I came up with (and by the way, I live in a northwest suburb of Chicago):

water – Lake Michigan
whole wheat flour – Ted’s Organic Grains in DeKalb, IL
white flour – no idea where it came from, and I no longer have the packaging
canola oil – Canada
salt – U.S.A. (where, precisely? Anyone know where our salt comes from?)
yeast – Canada
parmesan and romano cheese blend – Argentina and Italy
olive oil – Italy
spinach – Sandhill Organics in Grayslake, IL (part of my CSA box)
tomatoes – Canada (a surprise this time of year; I was expecting Mexico or Chile)
goat cheese – no idea and I no longer have the packaging

So, my dinner from “scratch” actually came from at least four countries on three continents, and with a surprisingly strong showing from Canada! And I’m fortunate enough that I can take all of this for granted. I had to look most of it up, and I still don’t know even what country two ingredients came from.

Then I thought about how many people helped make my pizza. How many people did it take to grow and harvest tomatoes, spinach, wheat, olives? How many people did it take to care for the goats and sheep, collect their milk, and turn it into cheeses? How many languages were spoken in the process? What are their lives like? How many people were involved in the packaging, distribution, and eventual stocking of those items? For that matter, how many people are involved in making the water out of Lake Michigan come out of my tap in a safe and appealing way?

Food ties us together in so many ways, and my sustenance – my life – is dependent upon so many others, most of whom I’ll never meet and often don’t even think about. I give thanks for them all, and proceed in the fight against hunger with the humility of knowing how lucky I am to be well-fed, and how much of my feeding I owe to others.

What did you eat for dinner last night? How many countries were represented? Please leave a comment. I’m curious!

-Nancy Michaelis