Still Life, A Russian Lunch
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...