FOOD, but is it glorious?
FOOD, but is it glorious?
This is the era of celebrity chefs, hybrid food (salted chocolate anyone?), coffee shops in their multitudes at every corner if not in between, all secretly held and cocooned in the complicity of shared guilt, second and third helpings and the deft manoeuvrings of how to eat while you are driving, attending to your children, watching a movie or writing a report.
After all, we need to fortify ourselves – don’t we?
The many myths and customs surrounding food and what apparently is and is not good for us amount to quite an impressive list:
We were either brought up to finish everything on our plate, whether we liked it or not, were hungry or not; or we were instructed that it is good manners to leave something on the plate as a display of detachment from food and a sign that you can easily afford to throw food away. Reminiscent of the late Duchess of Windsor who apparently said, “You can never be too thin”.
We are then told that food is there to build us up, give us strength and sustenance – so better have some more before a big day, before heading into the jungle of our now online world and virtual conference and meeting rooms. And if you have the video off, you can eat during the meeting, in the conference. You can even fall asleep, headfirst into your bowl of cereal or minestrone.
We are sold that dairy is not only good but essential for our calcium stores and therefore our bone health and there are forever more flavours and sophisticated degrees of creaminess, from kefir and yoghurt to cream cheese, quark and branded butter and everything in between, and beyond.
And when it comes to dairy: does the fact that there is now lactose free milk and cheese tell us that it could be the sensation in our mouth and the overall effect in our body that we are after – the tantalising creaminess, reminiscent of baby food – and neither cheese nor calcium as such? Do we crave those fleeting moments of familiarity and comfort, of feeling like we are being held and that everything is hunky dory and okay more than we cherish this substance called cheese and the calcium it is purported to provide? Did the calcium come after the cheese to keep justifying its continued existence?
And just in case there are any glimpses or heftier imprints of superiority among the aficionados, nuts and seeds easily provide the same – chew them long enough and you achieve the same creaminess, the same gratification. No wonder the lactose free industry has become very adept at making the coveted stuff from cashews, sunflower seeds and all sorts of other ingredients.
And have you heard that the tobacco industry has petitioned the government in the UK to ban cigarettes in favour of other nicotine delivery methods, and is it possible that cannabis is the next hit (literally so) and where the savvy punters are putting their money? Watch this space and before too long, it’ll be in the supermarkets – all sorts of offerings with the addition of CBD oil. After all, it’s from a plant and therefore it is natural; likewise, milk is from a cow for their young and thus entirely natural because the labels tell us so. Snake venom anybody?
Other than comfort and extended babyhood and infancy, food can also provide exclusivity, suspense, entertainment and excitement, like a game of Russian roulette. Fugu, a pufferfish, is only served in the finest of fine restaurants in Japan and needs to be gutted expertly lest the poison, which is 200 times more lethal than cyanide, spread through the flesh and lead to instant death when ingested. There is no antidote and apparently, the diner stays conscious to the very end. All this gratification comes at a very hefty price of course; the chefs rise to celebrity status and the whole scenery is a means of elevation above the rest of a few billion mere mortals.
It certainly looks like we have long ago forsaken Socrates’ counsel to ‘Eat to live, not live to eat’, but the latter proliferates and sprouts forever more creations – novel apparently but not really, just more variations and flavours of the same panacea for what we so desperately crave that food cannot ever deliver, no matter how hard we try and how much or little we eat.
Is there another way?
What if we started to be honest enough to admit, even if just to ourselves in the first instance, that food is not about food as such and its intake not about staving off a famine but about the effect it provides, from the sensation in the mouth to the back of the throat to the overall state of the body – soothing, dulling, cushioning, stimulating and exciting being just a small list of the many possibilities. We eat for many reasons and being hungry or wanting to truly nourish ourselves rank mostly at the bottom of this list.
Is the mental/emotional comfort and soothing quality that eating provides the real crux of the matter and the main reason we eat, rather than the fact that we need to eat to live?
And would obesity, adult-onset diabetes and the raft of lifestyle induced diseases better be addressed by being honest about why we eat so much and so frequently rather than keeping track of kilojoules, dieting, ingesting ‘everything in moderation’ (again, snake poison anybody?), and kidding ourselves about what is really going on and why it is so hard to resist and rise above the forever lure of the quick fix in the form of another mouthful or several of whatever is at hand?
Is it possible that our very own desires and entitlements, served and supported by a food industry that is forever on the ready to fulfill our every wish and demand are the real problems, and that food and its over-consumption are just a symptom and not the root cause of the many diseases and illnesses that such a lifestyle leads to?
Is it possible that we need honesty and true healing to get to the bottom of our food issues and the raft of accompanying diseases and conditions?