Maybe this will sound stupid, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we eat. I mean, we have to, on some level of course, to live. But I started a diet (yay New Years’ resolutions!) and it is affecting a lot more than just the numbers on a scale.
In diet world, you only eat because you have to. (Some crazy people will claim that this isn’t necessary–those people are liars.) You eat at regularly scheduled times, in quiet, with only you and the food you must eat. You eat therefore to provide building materials for muscles and bones, to keep your brain singing (unless you’re on a “cleanse,” then you’re breaking your brain long-term), to keep basic processes basically processing. If food tastes good, it is either evil and trying to destroy you or it is merely incidental to your need to eat it.
This, of course, it’s completely wrong.
As real people, we know that, but diet world is sometimes overwhelming, a palpable intensity that you MUST, MUST lose weight, no matter what, no matter how weird it is.
Incidentally, that’s why a lot of diets fail.
Because eating also provides an excellent excuse for socializing. My church has a joke that our symbol should be a covered dish, we have so many potlucks. And you know in college you can’t host an important meeting without buying pizza. It gives you something to do with your hands while you chat; it allows other engagements to last longer, because you’ve got built-in pitstops to refuel. It’s a way to build friendships, as you learn what you like about each other and maybe share a dish.
It also helps us express our feelings. Sure, sometimes we can go overboard with a pint of Bluebell when we’ve had a bad day, but making a cake for someone’s birthday gives me great joy, and it feels like I’m actually transporting that joy to the eater in the process. And we all know that the thing to do for funerals or prolonged illness is make a home-cooked meal, something hearty. These foods sate the body while providing a vehicle for our sadness, which we as a culture are so terrible at expressing. Making a special meal for my fiance wouldn’t be as significant if the act of feeding him didn’t also say something about our relationship, how I want to nourish this thing we have together, make it grow up big and strong.
Cooking is a skill, and it’s a hobby that you are always going to need to spend more time learning: there is always something more. It not only feeds the body, therefore, but it feeds the spirit and the mind (and in my kitchen, the arms. Kneading dough is tough!)
Food also carries its own significance. Sometimes this is a religious significance, such as the sourdough my church has used lately in communion. There is wine at weddings, and Sprite makes me feel a little woozy because it is my I-don’t-feel-good drink of choice.
Food has meaning. Much more meaning than we commonly allow it.
You could (and should, probably) work significant or at least meaningful foods into your work (lembas bread, anyone?), but also take a moment to appreciate the many things your meal is giving you in your daily life.
Then break bread with someone you love.