Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food, Glorious Food

Still Life, A Russian Lunch
Maria Feodorovna
1868

Why are people so afraid of food? Or, to be more specific, why are people embarrassed about enjoying food, or the act of eating food? Yesterday after work I stopped at a food court to have a cold drink. It was the hottest day we have had in Vancouver since 1941 -- over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the city -- and I wanted to cool off. A very tall, extremely thin woman came to the Indian food kiosk next to where I was sitting and ordered a samosa. She then sat down next to me and proceeded to eat -- to enjoy -- the samosa. One of her colleagues from work walked past her table, and stopped to chat. The woman put down her samosa, and said to her colleague, "I never do this, usually I am really good, but I was very hungry..." I wondered what the heck she was talking about, and then I realized, she was hungry, but she was embarrassed that she had been "caught" in the act of eating. She obviously needed a good meal; her shoulder blades protruded through her blouse.

At our office, we often have baked goods brought in by some of our co-workers. One of the nurses is a master baker, and she brings in wonderful cakes and pastries. Invariably half the women in the office will say, "Oh, no, I can't have any. I'm being good." And invariably, after everyone else has had some, these same women will sidle over and "sneak" a piece of the treats when they think no one else is looking. Why are they ashamed of enjoying the food, and what do they mean by "being good"? Does enjoying the food mean they're "bad"?

No one will ever mistake me for being anorexic, and apart from rice pudding -- which I detest -- I enjoy everything. Am I bad? Is this a character fault? I don't know.

I recently read an article in Vanity Fair magazine about the wonderful Julia Child. The author, Laura Jacobs, describes a meal Julia had in the city of Paris. "For Julia’s first meal on French soil, Paul ordered sole meunière, that simplest, purest, most implicitly French preparation of fresh fish. All it required was butter, flour, parsley, lemon, precision, history, and heat. “It was heaven to eat,” Julia wrote in From Julia Child’s Kitchen—“a dining experience,” she remembered in My Life in France, “of a higher order than any I’d ever had before.” One could say it was another shaft of light, not angled upward as from a signal mirror, but piercing inward—an annunciation. “Paul and I floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air. Our first lunch together in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life.” Mrs. Child had received her vocation, her crown." ... Laura Jacobs, Vanity Fair

Food as a life-changing experience? A higher order? Well, why not? Julia Child spent her life preparing food, enjoying food, teaching other people to enjoy good food, and the history and traditions of food. Good food is really very simple, and the sole meunière that changed Julia Child's life is made with very simple ingredients: sole, butter, white wine, fresh lemon juice, a bit of flour, and some salt and pepper. Does it get any simpler than that? My mother used to make it all the time, and it was wonderful. Hmmmm... I just decided what I will have for dinner tonight. And I just might have some ice cream afterwards. Why not? It's summer. My bad...

34 comments:

Lorna said...

That does it. I'm going out for a McDonald's Black Angus hamburger right now, and I might get the one with chipotle and bacon rather than the simple old De Luxe model.

I will feel a little guilty afterwards, but hey...........

:-)

~Lorna
____________________________________

The Bug said...

Jo - my relationship with food has always been very complicated. I LOVE to eat, but early on I lost that switch that shows me when to stop. Because of that, when I'm being "good" I try to monitor my intake. When I'm being "bad" I don't really have a brake. It would be nice to say that people don't have to be "good" or "bad" in relation to food - but it's just not that simple for those of us who struggle... sigh.

Wenderina said...

I've battled weight issues most of my life - and I'll never forget one of the Weight Watchers leaders saying, "If you're going to feel like you are cheating, for god's sake eat something that is fabulous, that you love, don't scarf down junk food because it's there. Eat something wonderful. And I will bet any one of you that when you start treating food like that, you'll find your weight issues go away. When food is an event, you pay attention to what you are eating, you enjoy it, you anticipate it, you relish it...food is not punishment. Diet is not punishment. Change your minds here and now and you'll be happier, healthier, and probably thinner."

DUTA said...

We're constantly told that "good" food kills. So who wants to be caught eating a samosa and look like he's committing suicide?

susie said...

All things are good in moderation. I think that's why some people try to be good and not eat, but what I've found is that I'm a lot better off to eat anything I want in moderation. Smaller portions taste just as good as large portions. I'm a fan of the $1 menus at the fast food places. The "meals" are entirely too much food.

And I do enjoy eating!

Starlene said...

I couldn't agree with you more! My husband and I seem to revolve our lives around food. He taught me not only to savor a meal, but to prepare it correctly, lovingly, and with careful attention to detail. Fortunately, we don't need to worry about too much weight gain because of the purity of the ingredients we use, which feed our bodies, rather than interrupt their natural functioning.

That "I'm full" switch that The Bug was referring to, can stop working as a result of a malfunctioning hippocampus gland. Artificial sweeteners, a.k.a. excitotoxins, are very bad for the hippocampus, Bug, I would stay away from them.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I enjoy my food and do not apologize for it......

Hilary said...

Nicely stated, Jo. Weight/food issues are indeed complicated for many.. on both sides of "normal." But basic good, wholesome food.. you can't go wrong.

Leslie: said...

I've recently been enjoying the "process" of cooking & eating by watching L cook and then getting to savour whatever he made. I've even attempted a few recipes on my own. We eat very healthily, but it's always a delight. He had me the first time he cooked for me - rack of lamb, roasted potatoes, & stir-fried asparagus!

Tonight I've been invited to a friend's to sample her buffalo meat lasagne. Hmmmm...I'm taking some Cabernet Pinotage to help one way or t'other. lol

Nancy said...

Life is to be enjoyed! Good food is part of that. I love nothing more than cooking for my family and friends. Which by the way, I'm just taking a break, as I've been cooking all day for dear friends due in about a half hour. Have to run -

Oh, and I like what Wenderina said.

Kimberly said...

It is more acceptable to be a drug addict than to be fat. It is unfortunate but it is so true. I have never been thin, will never be. My grandmother still pinches my side and says "pinch an inch Kimmy, pinch an inch".

ivan said...

I am not French, but I am ethnic.

I like to relax with a Colbassier. Hey.

Pouty Lips said...

Body image issues for women is a very common enigma. My whole life I got 'the look' if I took a second helping of anything fattening like mashed potatoes, or ice cream. It's conditioning. You should see the looks I get from the women I work with when they talk about their diets and I say I'm not even trying. They just look at me with a blank stare as if I'm from another planet.

Donnetta Lee said...

I LOVE food. After going through that sick spell a couple of years ago when I couldn't eat for sooo long--now I thank God for every wonderful bite I eat! Right now I'm having a terrific chocolate chip cookie. Sinful. Thank you, God. D

kenju said...

I definitely have your attitude towards it. How about I'll eat your rice pudding if you eat my liver?

Sole is my favorite fish!

Marguerite said...

Now you're you're talking about one of my favorite subjects, food. I agree with Susie that it's all good in moderation. Thankfully, I love veggies and fruits and eat lots of them, in between the Cajun delights or my weight could easily escalate by 10 pounds a month, forever. BTW, the fillet of sole looks scrumptious!

lovelyprism said...

I love to cook and I love to eat! A meal should be an event. Many cultures have meals that last for hours. The companionship is as important as the event. Only Americans rush through the drive thru and eat in their cars! The only time I feel guilty is when I eat American pre-packaged food or fast food laden with chemicals that I know are not good for me. But dammit, sometimes they taste SO good. I'm going to MacDonald's with Lorna!

PurestGreen said...

I have a handful of friends with whom I can REALLY talk about food. Food in all its sensual glory. Most people just chew mindlessly, but for me food is all about deep, incredible pleasure. And a gift of pleasure at that.

I've found that when I eat a lot of raw food, my senses become more alert and the food feels and tastes even more amazing.

Great post. Foodies, unite!

the walking man said...

Peanut butter and blackberry preserves is good food...even if you use bread it doesn't hurt the goodness of it.

Meggie said...

I love food! Am never 'good' about not eating. I think eating should be a joy, & surely, if you eat with guilt, your digestion will suffer greatly.
I know as a mother, & a person who loves to cook, feeding another person is a joy & a treat to see when the food is enjoyed with obvious delight.

pranksygang said...

Jo,I don't think its wrong enjoying your food! Even i'm a foodie! i love ice creams and chocolates and i enjoy having them at least twice a week!

Some people are just Showing Off too much By not eating anything! They say "I'm wanted to be in a good shape, No Thanks!". Thats ridiculous....

Russell said...

I live with my dog, Bailey. He and I take turns cooking and I have to admit I am developing a real taste for dog food! However, I think today he might be making his speciality -- baked bone! Heh!

But you know what? He's actually a better cook than I am!

The Panorama said...

You are so right, Jo. Everyone, esp. women these days are so afraid to eat..it's like eating has become a taboo almost.
A very good post indeed and enjoy those treats...life is for living and not for starving!

Owen said...

Hi Jo, wow, a hundred degrees in Vancouver ?!? That's hot... no doubt a cold drink was very welcome... I'm lucky to have a metabolism that lets me eat as much as I want of whatever, and not gain weight... still have the same weight as when I was 18... and I do love desserts ! Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake ! Lemon Meringue Pie ! Yeah !!! But I know not everyone is so blessed, and for many folks food is a nightmare.

If you have a minute, do drop by, my last two posts were direct echos of your Road Trip piece... hopefully a little smile there for you... Take care and stay cool, and well hydrated...

Land of shimp said...

Particularly in the United States, where health care reform is a current endeavor, I think people associate eating anything that isn't steamed in antioxidants and seasoned with fiber to be akin to inviting obesity. We're told over, and over by the media that Type 2 diabetes will cost the system, blah blah blah..."hey, blame the obese for everything", seems to be the gist. It's horrible, and a form of discrimination that's signed off on by society.

Hence the tall, thin girl apologizing for eating something that isn't supposed to be good for her. As if she owes anyone outside of her own life any kind of explanations.

A friend and I had a long discussion about how over time it has developed that the very worst thing you can call a woman is fat. We wondered how that had happened, and why women go along with it. I'm still well within my optimal BMI (body mass index, how sad that I actually know it) and have never actually struggled with my weight.

Until I turned 40 and went from being a size 6 to being a size 10. I get plenty of exercise, but I still eat as I like. The weight change had more to do with a shift in hormones than anything else, I hadn't changed my eating habits. I eat well, etc. etc. Fruits, vegetables, and hey, if I want a Samosa? I'd have a Samosa.

But I think that young woman, and the women where you work are afraid that even if someone isn't calling them the-worst-thing-you-can-ever-call-a-woman, then they are thinking, "She'll get fat."

You know what's amazing is that many of the stereotypes about age have gone by the wayside, thank goodness. Women over forty, fifty, sixty, etc. are acknowledged as being young, vital people. It didn't used to be the case. The worst thing you could ever call a woman used to be "old".

Now it is "fat". Either way, it all seems a scam to make us feel less worthy, not good enough, constantly failing.

Don't buy into it. Your worth will never be in the circumference of your hips but in the agility of your mind, and decency of your heart.

In other words, have a Samosa.

PhilipH said...

One of my favourite short stories is by Kathrine Mansefield: A Dill Pickle. It refers to a Russian worker offering part of his meagre lunch, a dill pickle. But it is so much more than this.

This tale is written so well, so succinctly yet comprehensively. She describes an awful lot in so few words. She was, imo, in the top 10 short story writers of all time.

Such a shame she died at 34.

TheChicGeek said...

LOL, Jo :D Food is one of life's pleasures and we should not be ashamed. I find Europeans have the right attitude...When in France, people happily enjoy a pastry sitting on the corner with a coffee, no embarrassment....then they walk, walk, walk and go through their day. Here in America we are too sedentary, I think that's why people get embarrassed and say, "oh, I shouldn't." Maybe what they should do is indulge when they want in moderation and move their bodies more!
I'm off to eat my breakfast...LOL
Yummmm!
Have a Happy Day!

Mariana Soffer said...

It is very interesting what you comment about the attitude people have regarding food.
I think there is a lage amount of people who had a distorted idea about what is healthy regarding bodyweight and eating reallatively ealthy.
When I came back to my country, after living in LA, I was skinnier than ever, and I was impressed because people told me I was gorgeous and never before in my life I had as many dating proposals as then. Society is ill, I was weighting arround 42 kg. and felt very weak, all I wanted was to be strong again, so I got to my normal weight an now I am way less succesfull, but I am much better.
Take care jp

Land of shimp said...

Oh, before I forget (again, some more!) there is a movie coming out that you'll likely enjoy tremendously, Jo. I believe it is based on a book, also.

It's called Julie & Julie. I've seen the previews and it looks delightful.

Here's a link to its IMDb page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1135503/

robert said...

Good morning Jo,
guess that food is something very personal. Being at the playground with the kid, allowing him to take a cookie from a stanger, reminded me that it is also much about trust.

Mean Mama said...

I really liked what Wenderina said. After having babies it is very hard to lose weight. I was at Red Robin with my kids after just having a baby and my friend who is very thin and proud of it (no kids) looked at me incredulously as I ate a hamburger. Later that night she gave me a lecture about how she eats. Recently I made my family a meal entirely out of farmers market products and everyone cleaned their plates!

Pat said...

"You are what you eat" said a wise old man, "If that's the truth - I'm a garbage can".

I remember seeing Burl Ives reciting this on TV.

I guess moderation is the key. I love to eat (and it shows!)

Rolley said...

I totally agree, like you, I love food. I love how it can take you on a journey, stir your inner thoughts and feelings with just a smell. Food to my palette is as music is to my ears, like art is to my eyes.

I like to think and wonder about the history of food and drinks, its an achievement of humankind - something to be proud of - that we've mastered the complexities of some creations, and appreciated some of nature's most subtle offerings.. turning them in to something people deeply enjoy.

I'd never be embarrassed about eating or enjoying food, never! : D

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