Why We Love Food ~ And What It Says About Us
Sorry . . .
I need to open my remarks with an apology; I fear I've tricked you . . . I'm not going to talk about why we love food at all - I'm going to talk about why I love food. As it came to me to write about food, I began to recognize that, as with most things, I can really only speak for myself. Many folks talk about food as a comfort, as a reminder and so connection with happier times or with a special person in our lives. Some use food as a momentary escape from distress, a distraction from some unpleasantness currently disrupting their life. For some food is an opportunity to demonstrate to others their assumed sophistication, to cast themselves as cultured or worldly. And for a great many food is an excuse for fellowship, when we get together with loved ones, it's commonly an event attached to a meal. None of that comes close to addressing why I love food, so I must abandon the claim of my title and instead share with you why I love food . . . and, I do love food.
Why I Don't Love Food ~
I don't mean, by that heading, that I don't love food and I'll tell you why - I do love food . . . what I mean to address here is what reasons are not my reasons for loving food.
For me, food has nothing to do remembering the past, feeling comforted during turmoil, or pretending I'm more fancy than I actually am (most who know me will tell you, I couldn't be any fancier than I already am). I do often delight to be around my family, and there is always plenty of food. The photo above portrays a very special time; my youngest daughter, Olivia (resting her head on her mother's, my sweetheart's, shoulder) and friend (and ours) Megan introduced a very welcome tradition a few years ago . . . every Friday night they would come to our home and prepare a gourmet meal for my wife and I. I love my Olivia and I love Megan, and I looked forward every week to visit with them both - but I would have been just as delighted to visit with them both with or without the food specialties.
For me, the company was about the company, and the food, was all about the food. These were delicious meals. In the meal above we had the best crepes I've ever had and perfectly grilled asparagus with savory garlic and a kiss of lemon - but, had the meal not been good, I would have said so in an instant . . . I would still have enjoyed the company, but I don't possess that civility feature of assuring people a thing is one way, when it is not at all, in an effort to 'be nice'. I love Olivia and Megan whether they can cook or not, yet I don't see why I need to tell them their food is good if it is not, anymore than I should tell them they should tryout for the NBA if they shouldn't. For me, food is not a vehicle for fellowship - it's food.
a pork & vegetable stir fry with a medley of dumplings I made some time ago - the time and effort at handcrafting a variety of different dumplings struck others as a bit absurd . . . but it was all delicious!
Why I Do Love Food ~
I can wrap this little essay up in three words - it tastes good. I love food because it tastes good . . . which of course asserts in it's declaration that what I actually love is good tasting food. This may sound like a not-so-stunning assertion, I mean, announcing that you like food that tastes good with the assumed suggestion that you don't like food that tastes bad is not likely to amaze anyone . . . I imagine it quite valid to assert very few people like food they think tastes bad. But what I'm actually advancing here is the singularity of attention that I give to food - taste, that's it.
For me, food has nothing to do with memories, with distracting me from misery, with anything other than taste. Even with my generation's unseemly fixation on health and nutrition, none of that ever comes to my mind regarding food - only, does it taste good. I'm the same way with music; not does it have a meaningful message, does it make me want to dance, does it liven-up a get together, does it take me back to another time, etc, etc - for me, music is all about, is it pretty to listen to. I still listen to music I've listened to since I was a kid, I've listened to a great many songs for over 50 years, and there are very few I could even begin to tell you what they're singing about - for me, it's all about the sound, the melody, the beauty of the music itself. And I recognize this same scenario in me with movies, clothes, religion, etc, etc.
What That Says About Us . . . uhh, Me ~
Most who know me well would quickly say that I am a utilitarian kind of guy. There's not a lot of fluff or undirected energy about me, I'm very deliberate and ludicrously consistent. The problem is that sounds to most folks like a tediously dull and passionless person. However, while owning a clinically logical and analytical disposition, I am deeply passionate about a great many things. I cry when I see Fred Astaire dance, I cry when I hear John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" - I don't cry when I eat a flawless corned beef on rye, but I moan and praise every bite.
When you go to the heart of the matter, when you listen to music to hear beautiful music not to liven-up a party, when you eat to taste good flavors not to lose weight or forget your troubles, you can experience a passion that only the 'heart of the matter' can provide. Utilitarian doesn't mean empty of feelings - it means a fixed passion, a relished experience, an absorbed into appreciation. Sometimes the cool character is smoldering underneath, sometimes the level-headed fellow's heart is overflowing, sometimes the dispassionate man is the most passionate.
If I love food because it tastes good, and you love food because it's good for you or it distracts you from distress or it reminds you of your youth, etc - who is really, REALLY, loving the actual food?
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