I grew up with bad eating habits. Mostly because I was a very picky child who only liked cheese, pasta, white bread, sugary cereal, and meat. And partly because of canned vegetables.
These eating habits led to a host of health issues. And those health issues led to curiosity about natural medicine (drugs tend to really mess with me). And curiosity about natural medicine led me to learning a lot about food and how it affects the body. I did a lot of reading about nutrition and the food supply and agriculture.
Then I came to Oregon and realized I was a complete amateur noobie ignoramus when it came to food awareness.
Here in Oregon, we have IDEAS about food. And we like to spend a lot of time expounding upon our food philosophies. (I am very much included in that “we”).
Usually, food philosophy discussions are at the very least interesting. Sometimes they’re educational, and often they are amusing. But sometimes . . . sometimes food philosophy goes to a dark place. Sometimes it turns in to food fundamentalism . . . and dudes, we all know how much damage fundamentalist thinking can do.
A person with a food philosophy realizes that some foods are better for you than others. A Food Fundamentalist divides foods in to categories of “Virtuous” and “Sinful”.
This sort of Food Dualism has infected our culture. We’re so worried about it that we argue about which side of the force our favorite foods belong on. CHOCOLATE belongs to the dark side. Except maybe dark chocolate belongs to the light side? Because it has that thing in it? That’s good for you? Milk is either the most wholesome thing on god’s green earth, or puss-contaminated filth that will rot you slowly from the inside out . . . depending on who you ask.
If we enjoy a dessert or something with a high fat content, we feel like we need to apologize to the world at large.
I think this kind of thinking is one of the reasons the U.S. is fat.
I mean, didn’t that whole priests-molesting-little-boys scandal teach us anything about the consequences of forbidding things? Haven’t we learned that the more we repudiate our desires, the harder they are to resist?
I think setting up a virtue and vice framework for food choices is dangerous to our health. It makes us crazy. I think we need a new way to look at it. More of a “it would be good to eat a LOT of these foods” approach, and enjoy the other things now and then for the sake of the pleasure.
Because sometimes food–like all other alleged “sins”–is simply about pleasure. And you guys–there’s nothing wrong with pleasure. We’re designed to appreciate it. It’s good for the soul.
A person with a food philosophy might refrain from eating the processed meat appetizer at a party with a simple “no thanks”, and stick with the crudites or the cheese and crackers. A Food Fundamentalist will refuse to eat any of it, and will lecture the hostess on how such impurities will never defile the divine temple of her body. She will explain why one shouldn’t eat factory farmed meat, why the non-organic vegetables will KILL US ALL if we eat them, and how sugar will result in the fall of humankind. And she’ll walk away from the gathering feeling righteous, for she has informed yet another lost soul of the One True Path of eating.
Never mind that she has insulted the hostess and probably hurt her feelings as well. And the hostess isn’t going to say, “Oh wow, she was right, I’m going to change my habits from this moment on, and thank her for showing me the error of my ways!”. No. The hostess is going to say “What a BITCH,” and is going to think twice about inviting the Food Fundamentalist to future gatherings.
I think we would all do well to remember that food is about more than what it does to your body. Food is about community, about culture. If you say my food’s not good enough for you, then it sounds like I’M not good enough for you. Nobody enjoys being insulted.
It’s GREAT to have a food philosophy. I have one. But, as my writing buddy pointed out, “Kids have a food philosophy too. It’s called ‘I want to live on candy.’ But if your kid acted like that at someone’s house they’d get a time out.”
(Please note that allergies and intolerances are a different matter. If you’re going to be ill for weeks or go in to anaphylactic shock if you eat something I’m serving, then obviously I am not talking to you here. Almost everyone I know has SOME kind of food intolerance; our potlucks look like the special dietary needs section of the natural grocery store. I’ve managed to cook successfully for most of them, and I’ve been happy to do so. Totally not the same. So don’t flame me in the comments m’kay?)
We all have a right to our ideas about food. It’s even fine to TALK about those ideas–but there’s a time and place to deliver a lecture, and there’s a time and place to shut the fuck up and eat the damn birthday cake. If you want to tell the world what to do, get yourself a freakin’ blog.
It’s what I did.