Food: Neither The Source Of Love Nor Mere Body Fuel

Home-baked pizza by Planet Yabadada

A few years ago I had an idea for my first novel. I thought it was simply genius and well worth the struggle, time, and energy that creating any extended piece of writing entails.

I wanted to write about the world with no food.

No, it wouldn’t be a story about a massive famine due to a deadly disease that killed off all the crops and farmed animals or a mysterious poisoning of the soil that made all the edible plants inedible. Instead it was suppose to be a bright optimistic vision of a future where humans voluntarily stepped forward on their evolutionary path and started to live off of synthesized nutrients only, in the form of a daily pill or injection, thus liberating themselves from all the fuss related to food consumption.

If you can dare to call it a mere fuss, that is.

Because when you think about it, our lives and the whole human culture revolve around food.

Gardening.

Grocery shopping.

Meal planning.

Cooking.

Eating.

Eating out.

Food travelling.

All the catering businesses.

All the agriculture.

The farming.

Hunting.

Fishing.

Foraging.

All the diets.

Keeping up with nutrition science.

Struggling with all the eating disorders.

Diet-related illnesses.

Nutritional deficiencies.

Hunger and obesity.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

It felt overwhelming to me. I couldn’t understand, why do we still place such an importance on food? Why do we give away so much energy, time, and money to something that, I was sure, the modern science could reduce to a daily nutritional pill, injection, or an energy shake? Why do we choose to spend our lives eating or preparing to eat instead of investing ourselves into art, science, exploring the world, and altering our consciousness?

I believed – or pretended to believe – that humans should rise above the tediousness of feeding themselves and their offspring. There’s so much more important things to do in this life than that, right? Right? Well…

For someone who’s arguing that the lives of people and other animals are of equal importance, that was an awfully arrogant approach to humans and their relationship with food.

But that was then.

Who’s there to say, really, that putting a beautiful meal on a plate, created from scratch, is less significant than a painting on a canvas? We may have an answer deeply ingrained in our minds but where does it come from, who and when convinced us this way?

And there was another train of thoughts that kept my inner resentment towards food culture growing.

I’ve struggled with binge-eating most of my life and had various disordered eating habits and beliefs in general.

I had little to no control over my food consumption and the need to feed myself anyways felt like the heaviest burden.

Like most of the people struggling with addictions – yes, food can also be a source of addiction – I tend to fall into a black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking pattern. Hence my idea of the world where food is eliminated from our human lives in general and forever.

But since it was just an idea that I could never make a reality myself, I needed to gain control over my struggles in some other way.

*

Over so many years of my life sprinkled with binge-eating episodes, I felt emotionally and even physically exhausted. I hated that I’d been relying on food for pleasure and comfort and wished that I could reduce it to simply the source of energy, the fuel. For the past few years I’ve experimented with different diets a lot, taking out certain groups of food and exploring the vast world of different kinds of fasting. I focused my attention mainly on nutritional value of food and how to make my body and mind more efficient and healthier.

And even though I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and health and truly improved my own physical and mental states, I couldn’t divert my attention from pleasure as I started to enjoy a more valuable and nutrient-rich foods. My tongue refused to go numb. Instead, it started to recognize and love more natural and more varied tastes. I couldn’t escape the fact that our bodies are constructed to eat and enjoy eating.

I also couldn’t ignore the fact that my mind actually thrived while cooking, for myself as well as for others.

*

A short while ago this idea crossed my mind that procrastination is a damaging concept coming from a production-focused society. Of course, we have a lot of distractions in our modern lives and not everything we do is of emotional, mental, or spiritual value. But don’t you think that sometimes what we call procrastination is our minds actually showing us what we really need at that particular moment?

For me it’s daydreaming and cooking, both extremely valuable activities in their own ways. Experimenting in the kitchen is the easiest way for me to get into the flow state of mind. The kitchen works as a welcoming playground for my creativity to flourish. And it’s one of the easiest and probably the most appreciated ways to show others – and yes, yourself – your love, caring, and kindness.

But the food itself can never be a source or a substitute for love, care, or kindness. Love, care, and kindness come from the heart through the hands of a cook and the meal is their love letter to themselves and to the ones they cook for. Food works as a symbol, a grand gesture.

*

So as you might have guessed, my novel is still not written. I have a feeling that there’s a bigger chance for me to publish a recipe book rather than a novel about a foodless world.

I am glad that, even with such complicated history of my relationship with food, eating or not eating is not a matter of choice. Sure, I can fast, even for days, but eventually, I always have to return to food. The real strength lies in moderation and this is what I know I have to learn to sustain in all areas of my life and in all the things I consume in order to be happy and stable.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll carve some time for myself and cook something nutritious and delicious. And yes, I invite you to do the same.

***

Film Recommendations:

(to inspire you to cook and dare to play in your kitchen!)

Julie & Julia (2009)

film Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep
Film still from Julie & Julia (2009) starring Meryl Streep. Image source: Vanity Fair

Genre: Biography, comedy, drama

Director: Nora Ephron

Screenplay: Nora Ephron (based on: My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme, Julie & Julia by Julie Powell)

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina

Country: USA

A tale based on two true stories: Julia Child (1912-2004), a legendary American chef, author, and television personality, and Julie Powell, a modern-day corporate worker and an aspiring writer. Being a fan of Julia Child’s work, Julie decides to launch her own blog documenting her challenge of cooking all 524 recipes in Child’s iconic book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year in her tiny apartment kitchen in the year 2002. Her story is alternated with depiction of Julia Child’s life in France in 1950s trying to learn to cook professionally and to publish her first cook book for the American housewife audience.

Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child speaks about the way Julie Powell saw her in her own imagination, but she’s nevertheless a very lovable and charming character that magically inspires the viewer like me to simply have fun in the kitchen. Julie Powell’s character, even though quite obsessed about her project and, honestly, herself, is somewhat relatable to me from two perspectives: her love to cook and her blogging joys and pains. Noteworthy are these two women’s relationships with their significant others. The depiction of love, support, and respect between Julia Child and her husband Paul Cushing Child is particularly endearing and heart-warming.

Quote:

Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, on her TV cooking show:

“When you flip anything, you’ve just got to have the courage of your convictions. Especially if it’s a loose sort of mass like… That didn’t go very well. But, you see, when I flipped it, I didn’t have the courage I needed… the way I should’ve.

But you can always put it together. And you’re alone in the kitchen. Who’s to see?”

Chef (2014)

Promo photo for film Chef. Image credits – Open Road Films, Merrick Morton

Genre: Comedy, drama

Director: Jon Favreau

Screenplay: Jon Favreau

Starring: Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Sofía Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, Amy Sedaris, Robert Downey Jr. as Marvin, Russell Peters

Country: USA

Carl Casper is an established head chef of a popular high-end restaurant in Los Angeles. Even though he’s been working in the same restaurant for many years, Carl still has a lot of creative ideas that, unfortunately, are dismissed by the restaurant owner who wants him to stick with the time-tested classics. After a public wrangle with a famous food critic that went viral online, Carl decides to retire from his head chef position and starts an independent Cuban sandwich food truck business instead. We follow Carl on his upbeat food truck road trip with his teen tech-savvy son and a fellow chef friend.

This film offers a glimpse into a restaurant industry, a part of which I am for the past few years. It also shows that your creative aspirations may benefit from going small and independent rather than chasing for that dream supposedly offered by that big establishment, that big production, or that big corporation. The film also acknowledges the importance of social media in the development of our modern careers, for better or for worse.

Quote:

Famous Korean American chef Roy Choi, who was a technical advisor for the film, teaches Jon Favreau how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich in the end credits scene:

Changing your positions. You’re moving around. But you’re not too busy with it. You’re… You’re precise, but then sometimes you step back. Nothing else exists except this. This is the only thing that exists in this world right now. And if you f*ck this up, everything sucks in the world.

***

Featured image: a close-up shot of a home-baked plant-based gluten-free pizza by Audra Bajori

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *