If there’s one entry I have found the hardest to write, it is this one…
I think I speak for many when I describe my relationship with food as complicated. I’m not the first person to say that I love it, I hate it, I find it indescribably pleasing and simultaneously anxiety-inducing.
I wasn’t always so confused. I used to eat what I liked, what was cheap, what was available at the moment, or what was put in front of me – and not think more than once (okay, maybe twice) about it. Now, though, the story’s changed; I think about it all the time. Maybe more than work, maybe more than my to-do list (although I’m not sure if that counts, since it is often a big item on my to-do list), maybe more than what I’m doing this weekend.
And this didn’t happen because I suddenly wanted to “watch what I eat” or lose a few pounds, it happened because I started to learnabout it. The curse of curiosity led me to explore food by reading, and now it’s just… in my brain.
This is a both a boon and a disadvantage, of course. The more I “know” about food, the more I can decipher what’s good for me and bad for me. But the more I “know,” the more choices I now have to make: Now that I’m aware of what “food processing” really means, to what extent do I tolerate it? Now that I know the difference between grass-fed and corn-fed beef, is it worth shelling out for the former? (Remember, I’m on a budget here!) I am quite literally experiencing an omnivore’s dilemma.
Just as I scrambled to start this blog before the New Year, I also scrambled, in December, to make some really clear-cut decisions about what I would spend 2013 eating. I read, asked friends to weigh in, and generally let the questions about what sort of -arian I would become (Vegetarian? Pescatarian? Raw foodist?) simmer in my brain, hoping that a clear-cut answer would arise. And one did… sort of. It was at Michael’s family Christmas holiday. I spent the day meeting his extended family, playing washers, whispering into Michael’s ear, “So Cousin X is the daughter of Aunt Y or Aunt Z?” Oh! And eating a ton of yummy beef fajitas.
Now, at this point in December, I was deeply into consideration of all the potential dietary rules I could create for myself. And I like rules, so the idea of creating a hard-fast checklist of good and bad foods seemed like the way to go. But as I sat there, savoring my surely-corn-fed-skirt-steak, I thought about how awkward it would have been if I couldn’t eat this fajita. “Hi! Nice to meet you! I’m your son/grandson/cousin/nephew’s girlfriend and I can’t eat what you’re serving tonight!”
Food isn’t just about the calories or nutritional value, it’s also about all the social context surrounding it. I realize this sounds a little grandiose, but in a way, to reject the fajita would have been to reject Michael’s family, which, with all the love and hospitality they were providing, would have been unthinkable.
So my second resolution of 2013, a little hazy though it is, is this:
I resolve to become a “qualitarian.”*
To me, quality food means unprocessed over processed; local over organic, organic over non; dairy-free before dairy; meatless over meat, but wild caught fish and grass-fed beef before other types; and most of all it means savoring my food.
After all, food is a tangle of emotion, to be sure. And I want to love every moment I have with it.
*Term nabbed from Vegetarian magazine.