In defense of good old food

eating salmon fougasse in Paris
© K Martinko

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf

Virginia and I would have been grand old friends, with that kind of attitude. I’m going to make an untrendy confession: I love food. I love eating. Preparing it, smelling it, looking at it on my plate, anticipating its consumption, tasting it — the entire process gives me intense pleasure. 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 soul and has a direct impact on 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 preach about “eating to live, not living to eat,” but the inverse could be true in my case. Without food, my day would lose its structure, which is built around mealtime preparation. Relationships would suffer, as they so often find their focus around food. My restlessness for travel 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. Dinner is a sacred time that anchors my family 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. Junk food, yes, I support its bashing — but then, it’s really just junk, not food. It’s the countless anti-food articles that 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 heeded these headlines, I’d starve to death! 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 rightful condemnation of processed food, it’s as if the whole world is out to get plain old food.

What puzzles me, too, is how entire continents have subsisted healthily for centuries on foods that are vilified 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, Italians eat two plates of white pasta daily and tons of deep-fried meat, Asians eat vast quantities of white rice, Greeks eat buckets of olive oil, and Middle Eastern culture is built around flatbreads, then how come they’re not all collapsing with poor health? In fact, they look a lot healthier than most North Americans.

I’ve developed a defense mechanism. I shut down when I hear about new fad diets and food lifestyle choices, and refuse to let myself feel guilty for eating bread, rice, veggies, fruit, dairy, fat. I will not feel guilty for keeping myself alive with fresh, homemade, locally sourced, mostly organic ingredients, even if they’re the newest trend to avoid. 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 work for everyone. People have all their own reasons for choosing to eat a certain way, and we all have different body types that react uniquely to foods. 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!”

Tags: Diet | Food Security | Fruits & Vegetables | Health

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