This post is dedicated to food. I spent the whole weekend making Christmas cookies. Peanut butter cookies with chocolate kiss centers, spritz cookies, chocolate chip cookies, sugar tarts with raspberry jam centers (rolled out in confectioner’s sugar so they don’t get as tough, best tip I’ve ever gotten!), walnut frosting-stuffed cookie sandwiches. So much sugary goodness whipped up in a flurry of holiday spirit! All those gift boxes are laid upon the table and slowly fill with row upon row of sweet, cooled, cookie goodness. But it is only now, on Monday the 8th, that I truly begin my celebrations. Today is my second wedding anniversary! Wheee!
And as part of the on-going celebration we are headed to our favorite steak house tonight after work. I can almost taste that tender cow-meat! Spicy, flavorful, deliciously moist and lush. Like a fabulously sweet meat-peach. Mmmm. Peaches. Maybe I’ll make a peach dessert for that holiday party this weekend. Nah. I’d have to use canned instead of fresh and that’s not the same. I’ll stick with that peppermint cheesecake bar recipe.
Anyways. All this baking and the anticipation of tonight’s celebratory dinner got me to thinking about food as rewards, food as celebration, food as social gathering duct-tape. We use food in many different ways in life. Not only is food the nourishment our bodies need to survive the rigors of our daily lives; but it is also: a delectable social ice-breaker, a prize for doing well or behaving, a treat for a job well done, a way to express thanks or to spread cheer. Food means so much more than mere calories these days. Which is why I find it so much of a trip down cognitive dissonance lane when people insist that weight and size and all of that boils down to eating too many calories. As though food does not mean anything but fuel.
Well perhaps it SHOULD be just fuel and you could certainly argue that point. Heck, perhaps if food WASN’T so tied into our social lives and moral constructs so strongly then it wouldn’t be such a huge moral issue to be fat. See, if food was just fuel and not all the other things we tie it to, then anyone fat would just be a person who needs more fuel to run. Period. End of story. No moralistic judgments: bye-bye shaming hatred! But you and I and anyone else willing to admit it will concede that food does indeed mean so much more than the simple calories they impart. Which, unfortunately, means that it all gets tied into body size in a sort of ritualistic or perhaps puritanical pattern of eating to live or to enjoy and then demonizing that very same act as causing your body’s shameful down-fall.
Food can be a celebration of time-marking anniversaries, or of holidays of rejoicing. Food can be a spiritual joining through a symbolic ingestion of body and blood. Food can be partaken in sorrow in a funeral or wake, a communion with those lost and those still living in grief. Food can be the constant struggle between you and your mind, between your “willpower” and your perceived body faults. Food can be vilified or demonized, it can be glorified, it can be sexualized, it can be feared or worshipped. We do so many things with food, literally and figuratively, that it is no wonder it works its way into our minds in devious little ways. It is not hard to see why food comes to represent all that is good, or naughty; all that is pure or foul; all that is Healthy or Sinful.
As I prepare for a wonderful evening of food partaken in joyful celebration I wanted to bring up these thoughts and get any other takes on it that people might have. Is it normal for food to mean so much to us? For it to symbolize so many different things? For what amounts to human gasoline to be such a strong moral compass?
Is it just by merit of being Human that we are graced with this ability to demonize something that is so basic to our survival? That to expand upon that age-old line “I think, therefore I am” we have now come to “I think about, but avoid, food. Therefore I am GOOD, or at least, better than YOU.” Is it only by having the “willpower” to avoid food that we reach some permanent higher-plane of existence?
Fasting is supposed to bring you closer to the spiritual realm of the unseen. Does that therefore mean that a constantly limited regime of a strongly will-powered reduced intake will acheive that next level of humanity? Does avoiding all that food is and can be bring you to the summit of spiritual joy and pure knowledge? Because all I ever see in those (myself included, during years of self-inflicted food restriction) who seek to reduce intake of fuel, of social edible enjoyment, is a self-hatred, a burning desire to focus only on what is lacking, what is missing from life due to what has been gained in girth of body, a mind sunken to the depths; not risen to the heights.
Perhaps you avoid foods because you enjoy doing so and really do feel that it has brought you a great peace of mind. I wonder about that though, especially anytime a co-worker waxes on prophetically about self-restriction, only to practically fetishized over a holiday cookie. Then again, as I will often admit, anecdotal evidence does not a proof in concept make so I can’t speak to anyone else’s personal experience. All I can say is that food is more than the calorie content (or carbs or fat or sugar) they impart to our bodies. Food is wrapped around our lives with many tendrils of importance that are sometimes not even tenuously tied to its original fuel intent. And for me tonight, I will be enjoying food in its role as celebratory accompaniment. And I can’t wait.