Sandelion wrote an entry in which she brought up the issue of foodies versus non-foodies. At the heart of her post was the question, “What’s the big deal about food?” I found this to be an interesting question and so wrote the following response. I’m curious to hear from my readers. What do you think is the big deal about food, or – if you’re someone who thinks the Food Network is a waste of cable bandwidth – why do you think that food is no big deal?
Here’s the response I wrote to Sandy:
Everybody has their own tastes (no pun intended): some consider food merely nourishment and others consider it something more. Truth be told, there was a guy I once went on a date with who ranted about how he couldn’t believe that some people made such a big deal about food, being able to remember meals they ate years before. I didn’t call him for a second date.
I put food on the same level as art, music and literature. You can listen to a bubblegum pop song with a catchy beat, you can put up a hotel room painting, or you can read a trashy dimestore romance novel – there’s nothing wrong with that. But there are also pieces of music that truly move the soul, paintings and sculpture that seems to have been created by something beyond human hands, and literature that puts you in the lives of people who are so much like yourself and yet so completely different. When you experience those things, it is as if you have the opportunity to know what is divine within humanity.
The thing about food that sets it apart from those other creative forms is two-fold:
The first is that food connects us as people. In almost every culture, the sharing of food is at its root. Meals are eaten in celebration and in mourning, in welcoming guests and in recalling homelands left behind. Meals are most often shared (that’s why it is so hard to cook for one!) and so the act of preapring and sharing a meal more complex than hunting down an annimal and eating the raw flesh from its body, is an act one that ties us to our humanity. It is the thing that sets us apart from the animals.
The second is that food – cuisine – is something that is at its heart, a lesson in detachment. Clothes, art, DVDs, music, books, and most everything else involves having something, something that can last over time. Fashions change, but you still have the clothes. You watch the movie, listen to the song, or read the novel, but you can still own the DVD, CD, or book and see, listen, or read it again and again. But food by its nature, decays. The meal, and all the artistry that goes into preparing it, must be consumed immediately and then it is gone. You can make it again, but it is never the same meal. To fully enjoy it, you must be present in the moment. In that sense, it reminds me of the sand mandalas that Tibetan Buddhist monks make. They are tremendously beautiful creations but also tremendously impermanent ones. As soon as they are completed, they are swept away.
So that is what I enjoy about food and why eating is such an important experience for me.
Fascinating topic, isn’t it?