This Is Why I Like Food

22 06 2012

Homemade wholewheat naan with a chickpea burger patty and some mixed salad.

If my Instagram feed feed can tell you anything about myself, it’s probably this: I like food, and I sure have photos (lots of them) to prove it!

I’ve never paid much attention to food until recently. It used to be just something to fill me up, to fuel me up for the day. Now, though, food is increasingly growing in importance, meaning and significance. Why?

FOOD AS A BASIC NEED

Most obviously, we need food – it’s essential for survival. And as an athlete, I need to make sure that I’m eating enough of the right foods to ensure optimum performance. But at the same time, food is so much more than a provider of life and energy.

Study snack: apples!

FOOD AS A CELEBRATION

Food, more than just a physiological necessity, is an art, an enjoyment, a celebration and a way of life. Behind every bite lies thousands and thousands of years of history: conflict and friendship, leisure and toil, creation and destruction.

In fact, the world was for a long time divided into three major empires based on the three main staple foods, wheat, rice and maize. What separated people even more was the sauce or spice they added: olive oil in the Mediterranean, soya in China, chilli in Mexico, butter in northern Europe, a whole range of aromas in India. Different cultures cook food differently, but culinary all progress has been dependent on the assimilation of foreign food and condiments. (Source: An Intimate History of Humanity by Theordore Zeldin)

Food at once distinguishes but also unites.

Image courtesy of Kevin Van Aelst.

Food is so important in so many different senses, and that is why I want to take control over what, how, when and where I eat. This is what attracts me to cooking. I don’t like eating out in restaurants because when I do, I give up control over what I eat. It is a loss of freedom in the culinary sense.

Party time!

FOOD AS THE SELF

Food is also an expression of identity. More often than not, we eat to satisfy hunger. But as Theodore Zeldin points out in An Intimate History of Humanity, hunger is often satisfied without full awareness for what it is one is hungry for. Making sense of why we eat what we eat can tell us more than just about our taste in food. It also reveals how far we are interested by new sorts of pleasure, or innovation and creativity, or whether we are willing risk takers.

Gastronomy, Zeldin notes, is not just self-indulgence nor self-exploration, but also the exploration of the whole of nature.

Fork and spoons have probably done more to reconcile people who cannot agree than guns and bombs ever did.” – Theodore Zeldin

Chicken meatballs and tomato sauce…total improvisation!

FOOD AS MORALITY

Every bite I take is also an ethical choice. Should I eat meat? Organic, free range, factory farmed or I-don’t-care? Genetically modified, imported, homegrown? In season or out of season? Behind all culinary decisions is a complex web of principles, values and ethics. Whether we pay attention to this web is of course another matter.

I’ve decided that it is worth thinking about, and that’s why I’ve been reading more about food. At first the reading was merely taking infinite pleasure out of various food blogs: mouth watering photos (otherwise known as food porn), attractive recipes, interesting debates about different diets etc. Now, though, I also want to know more about the food industry, and what my food means for the world. On the reading list now:

  • Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer finished reading
  • In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan
  • The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason
  • Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie

The food I eat is part of who I am. I want to make sure that my food decisions are made properly, that I make a decision for the right reasons.

Couscous salad

SO THAT’S WHY I LIKE FOOD.

Food as a basic need. Food as a celebration. Food as the self. Food as morality.

And as I keep moving, as I continue on my culinary journey, I’m sure I’ll find ever more reasons to like this thing we call ‘food’.

Do you like food? Why, or why not?

Fluffy scrambled eggs as a pre-workout snack.

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