I’ve started taking a more keen interest in food the past few years. To be more specific, I eat more of it, and I’m doing so on an increasingly rigid timetable.
It’s probably fair to say I’ve started obsessing over food. This never used to be an issue. I don’t really ever recall thinking much about food as a kid outside of “Ma! The hot pockets!”
At some point, my view of food turned from a sort of ungrateful apathy to more of a gluttonous veneration. “Ma! The Tikka Masala, now!
One sin for another I suppose.
No matter what phase of life we’re in, it seems we are ill-equipped to have a healthy relationship with anything as powerful, essential and wonderful as food.
While we all tend to move beyond the oblivious, irresponsible, eat-whenever, wanton hot-pocketry* of our youth, this is gradually replaced by an iron-clad, stringent feeding schedule – and often some accompanying strong opinions about the “right” way to eat.
Sometimes our “food ethos” becomes a formational, defining characteristic of our lifestyle (organic, kosher, vegan, meat lovers, gluten, local, only-baloney diet, etc.) – often to the point where we persecute or mock others we deem unenlightened.
How we’ve come to view food in America provides an instructive, albeit depressing, picture of humanity. The story of mankind is taking something nice, then finding a way to abuse, exploit, overdo or misuse it somehow to the point it gets turned into something negative, divisive or even destructive.
One way or another, it seems we increasingly become enslaved to our bellies; or at least eventually elevate food to a pedestal that should be reserved for more important things. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to say that most of us make an idol out of food.
So what do we do? We gotta eat, right Checkers? Where is that mysterious, healthy balance for those of us fortunate enough to live in a place where food is everywhere?
Obviously there’s no “correct answer” for this question of how to interact with food, but I would argue that it’s always a good exercise to try and find a reasonable balance between relishing good food, while not allowing it to control us. As my friend Brad puts it, we should always be wary of allowing stuff to become ‘ultimate things’ in our lives. In this age of excess, where just about anything is available any time, this can be difficult to prevent. ‘Self-control’ is not really our forte as humans.
Certainly food is one of the great pleasures of life and should be enjoyed accordingly – but as with all good things, should be tempered with humility, moderation, gratefulness and some measure of discipline.
Chipotle, you’re not making this easy.
*(Not to be confused with Wonton Hot Pockets [patent pending])