the celebration of the meal
Something is backward in the way we think about food. The rest of the Kingdom Animalia chooses foods based upon what will provide the most calories ingested for the calories exerted. American humans, however, look for foods with the least calories ingested and spend extra time attempting to expend even more calories through exercise. We don't want the extra flab we might gain by eating too much fat, or the bulge that might come with excess carbs, or the bulk that might accompany extra protein.
In the end, what we create is a guilt complex surrounding the meal. We are afraid to enjoy the food we eat, lest we create a desire to eat more than we should. We are ashamed of the indulgences we allow ourselves, afraid of the consequence if we don't keep a tight reign on our tastebuds. We do not allow ourselves to see food as a gift from God to be used for our enjoyment, but as a curse that we must deal with every day.
I am not trying to ignore the fact that obesity is a serious epidemic. I am not trying to say that we should forget about our health or our weight. In fact, I would dare to argue that perhaps it is our very backwards perception of food that is the root cause of the abundance of obesity and the need to worry so consciously about our health and our weight.
Throughout my junior high and high school years, I spent hours reading websites and magazines that talked about the newest superfoods and weight loss regimes. As a budding ballerina, I constantly felt the need to slim down. I kept food journals outlining my calorie intake, workout time, and weight each day. When I think back to those years, I cannot remember a single meal that I enjoyed, but I can picture at which lunch table I chugged my daily calorie-restricted protein shake, or at which desk I snacked on my plain slice of whole wheat bread -- my carb allotment for the day. I was a slave to food and the power it had to make or break my dancer physique.
Much of the nutritional knowledge I acquired in those days remains with me now, along with the added information I've gleaned from the more recent dietary trends. I can explain the scientific support for high protein-low carb-low fat diets, for high carb-high protein-low fat diets, for high fat-high protein-low carb diets, for raw food diets, meat only diets, grain free diets, and juice only diets. I can spout off the benefits of antioxidants and omegas, the ills of soy and gluten, the power of chia and gojis, and the devastation of genetic modification.
In the end, the conclusion that I've come to is that when we enslave ourselves to nutritional science and dietary trends, we are unable to stand back and enjoy food in the way it was created. We worry that what we consume one day as a superfood will the next be labelled a carcinogen. We eat low carb, and then are told we will die without them. We get rid of fat to find out fat is a necessity. We inject flavors and preservatives, we prepackage and microwave. We remove ourselves so far from the miracle of production that we no longer really know what the food is that we eat. We have a bunch of obese people eating food that is not really food, and skinny people afraid to eat almost any food.
What would happen if we change our perception? What if we gauge our intake not by the amount of calories or the grams of fat, but the quality of production and the natural existence of flavor? What if we learn about the ways our food is made, if we see the conditions in which it is produced. What if we appreciate the flavors of the foods God created and showed Him our gratitude by preparing them well and eating them in celebration? What if we don't just thank the Lord for our food with our words, but with our tastebuds as well?
I think that as a society we would gain health in a variety of areas -- mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We would learn an appreciation for fruits and vegetables, we would develop a curiosity for different kinds of nutrient rich foods, we would lose the anxiety over the newest diet trends and the stigma attached to the foods God made.
We would have to lose our attachment to the skinny model perception of beauty, to the quick and easy meal preparations, to Kellogg's and Nabisco. We would have to put forth time and effort in preparing our food and knowing our producers. But in the end, I think it is worth the sacrifice.
If the Divine Creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the LEAST we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.