My friend Tom, of the infamous Ho-Ho comment in a recent post, has always had the philosophy of living large – why not enjoy it? We are here and what, do we want to die at 108 but deprived of the good things in life? Of course not! So, drink, smoke, and eat to your heart’s content.
And while part of me agrees with that, part of me has also always had a problem with it. My association with food has never really been about it being a substance to keep me alive; neither has it been a real source of abandonment or enjoyment. What the heck is it?
I thought about Tom’s Ho-Ho comment for a while and finally have come to my own conclusions: it’s not about sacrificing quantity of life (years) for delicious food. It’s not about missing out so I can live a few more years. No, my search has been how to eat well, eat food I LOVE, eat nutritiously, AND live longer. What is the BEST possible food I can put into my body? And how can I get that where I live, with some effort but not over the top effort?
The thing I think to get over is what is “tasting good?” Why be a hedonist if that means eating disgusting food. I think it’s also not a question of whether or no something is good for you. The question really is, how refined is your palate to be able to discern what tastes good and what doesn’t. Does a Ho-Ho really taste that good?
We’ve been conditioned by a lot of things: supermarkets, our mother’s, advertising, food industries, even the government. All have an opinion about what is good for us and what tastes good. The different generations of the last 50 years have had their food fads and education. Remember being a child and learning about the new “food groups” system? What about the first food pyramid? Now the new one? It’s worth investigating how those things came about, by reading and learning about their origins. Why do we believe what we believe about food? Many of the books on the suggested reading list will help you figure out our recent “food history” and why we continue to perpetuate myths about food.
We have to first question our own taste buds. I recently went to a restaurant in San Francisco where I had the most amazing greens. It was made with duck fat and duck meat, a confit of duck, garlic, spices, and sauteed greens. I hate greens. Or, at least if you had told me a week ago that I would eat greens, I would have laughed. Ah, no. They are bitter and they stink. Yet, these were A-MA-ZING. The result: I’m more willing to try greens and maybe even make them if I can figure out how to incorporate yumminess.
The a-ha that everyone would like to shout is that Ho-Hos ARE yummy! Really? Think about that when you pop one into your mouth. Does it taste like anything? How does it make you feel physiologically? Is your blood racing? Headache? That’s the next step – getting in touch with your own body’s reaction to food. Does it really make you feel good or is that a psychological reaction? Can you live on psychological reactions alone? Hmmm. I think not.
In the end, it’s not about what you eat per se but about how you really feel eating it. How does processed, over-cooked, over salted, over sweet food make you feel? Have you tried to live with out it? The idea that a Ho-Ho is food decadence is, for me, a little weird. I think I’d rather have food that really made me feel good (and consequently helps me live longer) than made me THINK I felt good. Wouldn’t you? Ask your body what it wants. It’s okay if it’s a Brussels sprout. I won’t tell anyone. Promise.