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I still vividly recall a heavenly, exotic chicken-peanut dish I ate when I was bumped up to first class on a Portuguese airline in my early twenties, a mouth-watering Napoleon that was nearly the highlight of a cruise in my fifties, and I practically purr when I sink my teeth into raw sweet corn on the cob or pop some juicy grapes into my mouth. Yet, no one ever would mistake me for a foodie. Food does the trick when I’m hungry, I prefer that it tastes good, is nutritious and nourishes me, and I love to eat dinner out (aka be cooked for), but beyond that, eating is not an activity that lights up my life. Because of this, quite frankly, at times I feel totally out of step with our culture.
My maternal grandmother had a part-time cook and, while my mother was never at her most confident or happy in the kitchen, she turned out balanced meals for the family year after year and, by carefully following friends’ recipes, produced acceptable results when she entertained. Her sister, on the other hand, loved to cook and did it with joy and panache. Now that I think of it, my mother was kind of out of step with her time—the fifties—cooking because she “had” to, not because she derived much pleasure from it.
I was reminded of this cultural pressure while speaking with a client. She explained how, when her husband wasn’t home and she was alone for dinner, she preferred eating at the stove while cooking rather than have a sit-down meal when the food was ready. Her problem was that after enjoyably picking at the food she was cooking, she became pleasantly full, but still felt compelled to “do things right” and eat again at the table. She sheepishly admitted that she liked good food, but was far from a foodie and that she felt at odds with her friends who fell in love with restaurants, recipes, favorite dishes, and local chefs. I knew just how she felt and began thinking about the pressure in this culture to hoot and holler about the wonders of food with every mouthful we take.
My mind began to wander to the seemingly infinite number of cooking shows, celebrity chefs and the glossy cookbook covers which look tasty enough to eat—and the concurrent rise in overeating and weight and our general obsession with food. It would seem that our culture lives not just to eat, but to talk and write about and send photos of what we’re eating. Don’t get me wrong, eating mindfully, planning meals and spending time buying nutritious, wholesome foods are beneficial activities because they’re necessary for optimal self-care. Insisting that grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking must rock our world, however, is another story. In fact, maybe we actually need to spend less time obsessed with food and eating and more time enjoying the rest of life.
Which leads me back to the session with my non-foodie client. She’s an artist, and would rather be painting than fuss with food. As a writer, I feel exactly the same way. We get our juice from creativity and maybe other non-foodies get it from their work or hobbies as well. To not love everything to do with food is neither a sin nor a crime. Nor should people be made to feel badly because they have enchantments other than food. There’s not a darn thing wrong with you (and maybe, actually, there’s quite a bit right) if food doesn’t make you swoon. As long as you nourish yourself well and appropriately and have a positive relationship with what you eat and your body, you’re good to go. Let the foodies gush over food and let the rest of us go about living our lives.
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