Food has become scary. And, for some (unfortunate) reason, it’s all based on semantics.
We’re so frightened of what our food might do to us, from weight gain to cancer, that restaurants and grocery stores cater to our fears. They offer us organic salad (and better yet without dressing), multigrain bread, farm-fresh eggs and sweet potato fries. The terrifying “unhealthy” options still linger in the far corners of menus and aisles for the brave souls who practically risk their lives for Wonderbread and factory-farmed chicken. No one wonder there’s so few—their choices likely raised their cholesterol or spiked their blood sugar to such a degree that they didn’t survive to see the bottom of the Ruffles bag.
Worse of all, this fear is instilled in us without any research on our part.
Our instincts are now trained to cling onto whatever buzzword appears on our Facebook newsfeed. Why do I stock my fridge with skim milk? Why do I order a side salad with my meal? Why do I take a multi vitamin with my morning pot of tea? I have absolutely no idea. To some degree, they’re tendencies my parents—forty years my senior—adopted when I was in my late teens. So when I started to shop for myself, I shopped as my parents had. I shopped as if I was feeding the body of someone past middle age. And as much as I make fun of the people who skip dessert or order their toast dry, they likely adopted those same tendencies just as I did—as a result of utter ignorance.
So while we enter a period of history apparently governed by a fear of the unknown—a fear ridiculed by many—why do let that same fear affect what we eat? Our generation in particular, a generation who prides itself on acceptance of and curiosity for the unknown, approaches our diet with dated and conservative tendencies. And when we do indulge in that so-called unknown, we live in guilt after the fact, asking ourselves, “Why?”
In order to change how you think about food, consider thinking about it in the first place.
To riff on Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” from his In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, think about food, but not too much. If you choose to adopt radical changes to your diet, ask yourself why. Is your choice based on pessimism—the lobbying of a documentary, friend or magazine article? And does all that “information” actually make your food taste “better” or is it its moral implications? Or are your dietary choices based on a search for identity? Be warned in the search for the “real you”, becoming a vegan isn’t necessarily the simple be all and end all response. And if food is just fuel and you couldn’t imagine thinking about it, accept that. In fact, it’s a refreshing attitude to have, hence my initial suggestion to not overthink food. In my opinion, when we think more about our food than eat it, we move away from what should govern any diet: taste.
Perhaps it’s dangerously misguided, but I intend to continue buying skim milk. I acknowledge and admit to my ignorance—to be honest, buying skim is now habit. Food is politics. I don’t care what you eat or how you align yourself politically—I just hope you realize whenever/whatever you eat, you’re making a choice.