Food is in a golden age.
Never before has it held the kind of cultural sway that it holds right now — chefs are household names, every home-cooked meal aspires to be Instagram ready, and culture wars are fought from the outposts of food’s niches and fetishes — paleo, vegans, nose-to-tail, slow food, farm-to-table, low-fat, and pre-made convenience food.
Supremacy in the world of food is hard-won territory, and our conversations about it have reached an almost religious pitch. “Morality” is applied to food choices with little room for culture, history, preference, or personal experience.
Food as a Science Project
Food plays so many roles: health, community, tradition, and pleasure, to name a just few. And yet for decades we’ve focused so much only on food and the impact it has on our health. Eating has become a science project where the only justification for something is it’s nutritional impact.
If we’re interested in developing a life-long relationship with food that nourishes us in both body and soul, it’s going to be worthwhile to explore the aspects we’ve forgotten about, ignored, or simply don’t condone. Discovering and building a new relationship with food means being willing to find out what it all means.
Your Traditions Around Food
Where do your traditions come from? If you think you don’t have any, look again. You have habitual behaviors around food that you partake in whether you realize it or not. Traditions have value. They bind families and friend across generations. Created traditions have real power. Taking responsibility for them can literally change the future.
How do you connect with people over food? Coming together around the table is a precious opportunity. It is a chance to share your gifts, your talents, where you come from, and your contribution to your community. It has long been a way we have defined ourselves, a way we have celebrated, and a way we have mourned.
What is the value of enjoying food? Pleasure gets short moral shrift when it comes to eating. We all get pleasure from food, but often associate it with something negative. When is the last time you took real pleasure from an indulgence and didn’t refer to as a “cheat” or a “guilty” pleasure?
There is nothing immoral about enjoying food. There is nothing even immoral about over-enjoying food. It may not be good for your body, but it doesn’t make you a bad person. We are human. Pleasure has its place.
Finally, why do you even follow the guidelines you follow? Where did you learn them? What made you accept them? Food impacts every body differently. If you want real freedom, figuring out the reason for your rules and then accepting them—even if they turn out exactly the same—is an empowering act.
The Role of Food in Your Life
A complete relationship with food is a relationship of your creation. Stumbling through the process creation can be challenging, but it can also be fun. By addressing what you really want—wellness, happiness, community—you can begin to build a relationship that is meaningful, empowering, and healthy.