“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf
Oh, Virginia, you and I would have gotten along like two peas in a pod. Anyone who believes that good food is the centre of one’s wellbeing must be a kindred spirit. Now I’ll make a rather untrendy confession: I love food. I love eating. Preparing it, smelling it, looking at it on my plate, anticipating its consumption, tasting it, eating it — the entire process gives me such intense pleasure that I can scarcely describe it short of orgasmic. I’m a food-aholic, a staunch worshiper of good taste and fine quality ingredients, of the wonderfully different textures and substances that fill my mouth and belly. Food nourishes my very soul and has a direct relationship with my happiness. Maybe I’m obsessed with food, but it’s a delicious obsession and one that I’ll defend to the end.
Some people may believe in “eating to live, not living to eat,” but the inverse could very well be true in my case. Without food, my day would lose its structure, built around mealtime preparation. Relationships would founder, as they so often find their focus around food. My travel bug restlessness finds an outlet in ethnic food and strange tastes on my tongue. Eating rich food and decadent desserts serves as a motivation to get to the gym and stay fit. My family catches up around the table, a sacred time that anchors us and joins us in a communal act. Food is life for me.
That’s why I find it so upsetting when I see food getting attacked and bashed from every angle. Crappy junk food, yes, I understand and support its bashing — but then, it hardly counts as food, just calories. It’s the countless other articles that have begun to irritate me: “Is Gluten Bad For You?” “50 Seemingly Healthy Foods That Are Actually Bad For You.” “Reasons to Stop Eating Dairy.” “Why Grains Are Unhealthy.” “Tips for Reaping the Benefits of Whole Grains.” “3 High-Sugar Veggies to Avoid.” “Reduce Your Sodium Intake.” “Need to Increase Sodium Consumption.” “How to Avoid Fat in Your Diet.” “9 Ways to Add Fat to Your Diet.” “How to Stop Eating Rice.” “Stop Eating Fish!” “Eating Too Much Fruit Is Bad For Your Health.”
If I listened to all these, I’d starve to death! The titles go on and on; you know it — we’ve all seen the headlines in the papers and magazines and online. The bombardment of theories and evidence and proof and experience and suggestions and solutions is endless and incessant. Everyone has a reason why everyone else needs to stop or start eating the very same things. Moving beyond the proper condemnation of processed food, it’s as if the whole world is out to get plain old regular food.
What puzzles me, too, is how entire continents have subsisted healthily for centuries on foods that are harshly condemned in North America, as if we, a continent struggling with obesity and diabetes and countless other food-related ailments, have found the magical solution. If South Americans eat beans and rice twice a day (I know because I’ve lived there), Italians eat two plates of white pasta daily and tons of deep-fried meat (I’ve lived there, too), Asians eat vast quantities of white rice, Greeks eat oil-soaked food and drink tons of wine, and Middle Eastern culture is built around flatbreads, how come they’re not all collapsing with poor health? In fact, they look a heck of a lot better than most of us do.
I’ve developed a defence mechanism. I simply shut down when I hear about new fad diets, styles of eating, food lifestyle choices, and refuse to let myself feel guilty for eating bread, rice, veggies, fruit, dairy, fat. I refuse to let myself feel guilty for keeping myself alive with fresh, homemade, locally sourced, mostly organic ingredients even if, gasp, they’re the newest trend to avoid. My reasoning is as follows: I eat well, it gives me tremendous pleasure, and I will do whatever is necessary to balance that happiness and my good health. I don’t believe in withholding any food from myself. As long as I stay in shape, feel energetic, and love what’s going in my mouth, no changes are necessary.
I know this philosophy doesn’t and cannot work for everyone. People have all their own reasons for choosing to eat a certain way, and I respect that wholeheartedly. We all have different body types that react uniquely to foods and, surely, if my lifestyle or food preferences were different, I’d be tweaking my food habits, too. This post is simply a shout-out to good old food: “There’s still someone out here who loves you. I’ll keep eating you, every bit of you. I’m your biggest fan.”