Did I get your attention, Internet scoundrels? I hope so, because I’m about to plant a truth tree and y’all gonna watch that delicious thing grow. I’ve been reading Michael Pollan and butting into conversations between vegetarians and vegans for some time now and I think the whole food dilemma has spiraled out of control. America has smothered the rest of the first world in barbecue sauce and Pringles, and cultures that used to have healthy concepts of eating no longer have that wisdom. It’s nonsense, but with an ultimately simple solution.
The trick is not exactly what you eat, but how you eat it. I’ve known many a doctor and scientific professional that’d say otherwise, but really, eating and cooking on the molecular level is flashy but not necessary. Remember when we hated bread? That was silly and didn’t help anyone. And now this gluten thing? I don’t claim to understand the science, but how suddenly are there so many gluten-intolerant folks? I’m confused, but out of this whole mess I’ve gleaned some basic morsels of knowledge.
For one, eating like any of the older food cultures is helpful, especially if the traditions surrounding not only the consumption but also the rituals are followed. It’s vital to have respect for what you eat, and it’s hard to have that reverence for a fast food burger. Knowing the culture behind the foods helps in appreciating what is going on beyond shoving stuff in one’s face.
In that same vein, eat with people, at a table, and be social about it. You don’t have to attempt a nightly Thanksgiving, but eating should be a thrice a day celebration with rad people. Slowing down the meal, bringing folks into the event, helps to take in intellectually what you are eating. This, and you generally eat better when others are involved.
Last, try to know where the food is coming from, down to the farmer, butcher, or brewer (etc.) that is selling you the tasty treats. If you trust where the food is coming from, you are eating good food (you wouldn’t want to buy food from the folks who are actually at the top of Monsanto or Purdue). Even if you are eating a sloppy chocolate donut it’s ok because you’ve met the dude or lady who lovingly baked that particular pastry. The industrial food complex keeps people away from the process; being right beside the production process is profoundly useful knowledge. Factory food has turned many people into vegetarians and vegans, whether because of animal rights or straight up disgust of the products themselves.
I believe any one diet or strict ideology surrounding food is dangerous to have, especially seeing the cultural range of gastronomy and the many different traditions to try and taste. A vegan misses out on well-produced meat, often for overly contemporary reasons (that wouldn’t fit into traditional food cultures), but a meat eater misses vegan and veggie culinary innovations (only possible in a world dominated by industrial food). It boils down to listening to what your body wants, not what the world thinks you want. Listen to your gut; it might want a burger and it might desire quinoa salad. And enjoy what you eat, down to each ingredient, because eating is a pleasure, not a chore, and cooking the art that precedes it. If you gain respect for food and have a ball cooking it, you can eat whatever you want, because you won’t prepare yourself a Big Mac or other disgusting garbage because the ingredients and culture surrounding those are not one you want in your kitchen at all.