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Friends and Food

  • Eating

Sometimes when I’m around food with others, I sit back and listen to what they have to say. Occasionally they’ll feel self-conscious in my presence, as if they should censor their comments because I’m an “eating expert,” but, honestly, most of the time they just go about their business. It’s the nature of being a therapist that I’m almost always processing and interpreting behavior (my own and everyone else’s!) and, like a photographer who sees all life as if through the lens of a camera, I can’t help but observe how people act around food.

The “good/bad” issue usually rears its ugly head. No matter how many times I insist that food has nutritional—but not moral—value, friends still think in polarized terms and talk about how good or bad food is and they are for eating it. I try to let remarks slide by, but feel sorry friends who are stuck in diet-think. If I were to go through my shpiel again, it wouldn’t make a difference. They’re not ready to change and think differently.

Then there are friends who talk a whole lot about food while eating. Not just the taste, but whether they should or shouldn’t be eating it. I often try to casually change the subject, but they generally go right back to it. Or start talking about how salty the food is (I’ve fallen into this particular trap myself) or how much weight they’re going to put on from eating what they’re eating. Occasionally they’ll spend an entire meal wondering on and off how many calories are in the dish in front of them. One person even asked the waitress to check ingredient labels on food containers. I’m all for healthy eating, but this crossed over a line I’m not sure we should be crossing on a regular basis.

Folks also do this thing of comparing what they’re eating to other times they’ve had it. One bite and they’re off and running about some charming cantina in Mexico that made better enchiladas or this shanty on Boston’s north shore that had the world’s absolute best clam chowder. Throughout the meal, I’m treated to a travelogue of where they’ve eaten better fare than what they’re having now. Why, I wonder, can’t they just enjoy what what’s in front of them. It tastes pretty good to me.

Not being a foodie, I guess my wish is that food grabbed less of our attention, or rather our preoccupation, that it would take a back seat to other interests and passions, and that food could be, well, just food. Sometimes I simply want to eat and have conversation flow off in other directions. That way my mind and my appetite can both enjoy themselves at the same time.