Not too long ago, most of us didn’t think much about what we ate. We’d trudge to the grocery store after the workday and grab a foil-wrapped “TV dinner” (meant to go into the oven, not the microwave), a few boxes of pasta and powdered cheese ready for their ground beef or tuna “Helper,” a box of sugar-coated cereal for the kiddies, and the cheapest meat in the newspaper ad.
Today, such ignorance seems almost luxurious. The experts who “know better” than us are shaking us by the shoulders like desperate doomsday seers and screaming at us to ask! Is your food organic? Local? Free-range? Green? Packaged? Genetically modified? Raw? Pasteurized? Artificially colored or flavored? How many calories? How much fat? How much sodium? Were any living things harmed in the making of it? (The unfortunate and unavoidable truth is always “yes” – the living must depend on the living for sustenance; it’s easy to forget that plants are living, too). Every encounter we have with food is now ideologically booby-trapped.
To paraphrase John Lennon, food is a concept by which we measure our fear – and our impulse to make sure that our habits are better than theirs, whether they are our family members, our neighbors, or our concept of “average” people.
Whatever happened to enjoying what we eat?
Speaking for myself, I’ve gotten just as much of a kick of joy from a lunch of a cupcake and cappuccino at the Barnes and Noble Café as I have from a lunch of spring greens and sliced pears. I do try to keep most of my meals on the healthy side, but I say a life without ever once sitting in front of the television with a bowl of popcorn is a life that has missed out. I feel sorry for those who insist that food is mere fuel, as if we are just spiritless machines.
See this bowl of stew? It has two slices of white French bread sticking out of it, which will not please the whole-wheat fetishists. The potatoes will turn off the starch-haters. The carrots are just too cooked for the raw foodies. And get ready to scream, vegans, because there are chunks of lamb meat in the bowl, too.
This stew, created with love by Two Dogs, gave me the best nourishment I had all day after a long Wednesday of running around. I felt joy and gratitude with each sip and bite. I was glad to be human and glad to be able to love this dish.
It is not enough for our food to be “correct” – nutritionally, politically, ecologically. Our food needs to touch our humanity as well. I dare say it may be better to share fried chicken with loved ones and laughter than a raw vegetable smoothie while running towards your horribly stressful job.
Food for thought.