Monday, May 3, 2010

The Art of Eating In

I just finished reading Cathy Erway's book The Art of Eating In. It's about two years of her life in which she made a conscious decision not to eat in restaurants and not to order take-out.

The book brought up a bunch of stuff for me, which I will randomly spout here:

  • Reading about how she prepared meat is disgusting. I am a snobby vegetarian. One year without meat compared to thirty-one years with meat, and I'm already Snobby McSnobberpants. I must continue to refrain from trying to convert omnivores. Nobody likes a pushy vegetarian.*
  • She bought a TROTTER (pig leg.... complete with hoof) to put in soup with TRIPE. And she ate it while suffering from a HANGOVER.
  • She went roughly two years without eating out in a city that is all about the eating out. This had lots of positive ramifications. a) She saved a ton of money. b) She learned a lot more about cooking than she already knew, and she already knew quite a bit. c) She participated in events such as cook-offs and underground supper clubs, which she probably wouldn't have found without this challenge. d) The experiment allowed her to put eating out into perspective.

That last one is the kicker for me, although saving a ton of money also sounds very good. By abstaining for such a long period of time, eating in restaurants became a special occasion instead of just a way to get a meal.

It seems related to something a biology professor I had in college said: We wouldn't have the obesity epidemic we have if people realized that sometimes food is just food and there's no reason for a feast.

Oh. Right.

I know that I'm guilty of treating food like a cure-all. I get bored at work, and I get a chocolate-covered espresso bean (or several) out of my desk drawer. I'm feeling tired after a long day, and I want something gooey and delicious for supper. I treat food as a pick-me-up instead of just food.

Sometimes food is a pick-me-up, but most of the time it should just be nourishment. That means that when I do fix something very special or we go out to eat, it becomes more of an occasion.

Now, while I believe all that I've written to be true, I also believe that part of my problem is that I'm not able to view everything I eat as being something special. (See how I'm contradicting myself? Don't try this at home.) It seems that if I really had a healthy relationship with food, I would focus on whatever it was that I was eating and would see it for the miracle that it is. If I'm eating a simple meal of brown rice and black beans, I'm not just getting nourishment. I'm getting the gift of the people who harvested that rice and grew those beans and packaged them in a safe manner so I could buy them at the store. The number of plants and people and processes involved so I could eat that simple meal is staggering.

I should be grateful for that. I should be amazed by that. I should be so damn staggered that I sit in awe of my rice and beans.

And if that's how I feel about rice and beans, you can imagine how I would feel about going to a restaurant.

*I think I need that on a t-shirt.

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