eating is a pleasure

So, I was going to write a great big ole political post about the Founding Fathers and the rule of law and the idea of liberty and my disappointment that it looks like Obama is going to cave on trying accused terrorists in the criminal justice system and try them in military tribunals instead, but it’s the day I start my vacation and I just don’t have it in me. So maybe that post will show up sometime after next week, full of quotes from my favorite Founder, John Adams.  In the meantime, you get yet another post about food! Because I’m crazy about food! I talk about it all the time! When I told my boss that my main contribution to my trivia team the other night was knowing that “banh mi” is a type of Vietnamese sandwich (thank you for teaching me that, Anthony Bourdain), he said, “Why am I not surprised that you’d know the answer to a food question?”

The trigger for this particular food post is yet another piece from DoubleX. I promise I’m not going to go on yet another rant about baking my own bread while sacrificing my hopes and dreams and ambitions, so bear with me.  Before I get to that, though, I have to talk about the Salon post that inspired the DoubleX post which in turn inspired this one.  In a piece for Salon, Kim Brooks writes about pregnancy and weight gain.  She describes a moment when, post-partum, a stranger asked her when her baby was due, making her feel ashamed to still be carrying “baby weight.”  Now, if you ask me, Kim Brooks really shoulda told that nosy asshole off and then written a post about the GALL some people have to comment on women’s bodies or to ever dare to ask the question “when is your baby due?”  But instead, Brooks beats herself up for still carrying baby weight 6 months after her baby was born.  (If you ask me, it took you 9 months to put it on, cut yourself a break already, lady.)  In fact, she makes the audacious claim that mothers aren’t shamed enough for daring to “get fat,” aka, look like they’ve actually grown a human in their bodies, pushed it out of their vaginas, and then lived to tell the tale.  All of this is of course, completely insane, and I’d like to point Brooks and anyone thinks like her in the direction of Shapely Prose and the Healthy at Every Size movement.

But what inspired Amanda Marcotte’s DoubleX response to Brooks, and what inspires my post on the subject, was the guilt Brooks heaped upon herself for daring to LIKE FOOD.  Marcotte writes: “Brooks shames herself for loving family meals, the smell of baked bread, and the flavor of cheese. I don’t consider that out of control; I consider that being human.”  Marcotte, rightly, I believe, points to a culture that tells women they have no right to enjoy eating actual food (hello 80 calorie soups??) which creates monsters:

“The kind of eating that Brooks describes that causes women to put on way more pregnancy weight than recommended doesn’t sound like the eating of people who just love to eat. It sounds like the eating of women who’ve been deprived of the right to enjoy eating for so long they have no discernment at all—sucking down milkshakes, devouring entire pints of ice cream, vacuuming up white grains and pasta like they’ve never really been allowed to eat before. And in a sense, they haven’t. Not without feeling guilty, and having their enjoyment of the food dramatically compromised by that. I’m inclined to think that binge eating isn’t a matter of being a bad girl who likes food too much, but being a woman who hasn’t been allowed to enjoy it and so goes a little nuts when given even the slightest permission.”

I would liken it to my growing up in a teetotaling household and going a bit nuts with the drinking during my first semester in college.

All of this reminded me of a heartbreaking post by Sweet Machine at Shapely Prose about her mother’s death and the pleasure eating gave her in the end.  Sweet Machine points out that we have to eat or we will die.  But food is not just intended to give us life, but also pleasure.  I’m reminded of Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Food is part of this glorious creation in which we are to live and, in every moment and action, worship.  Part of the reason I love the slow food movement is that it affirms the great pleasure of food.  Not just the pleasure of eating it, but in growing it and preparing it too.  I am not just a machine who must be fueled in order to function, but a creature capable of joy and enjoyment.  I’m put into creation to rejoice and be glad in it, and it seems to me denying the pleasure that is food is to deny the blessing that is the gift of taste and sight and smell.

I’ve blogged about my love of chocolate pudding, made with whole milk and real chocolate and actual sugar.  It’s a bit of a process to make, but that’s what makes it rare and enjoyable.  I’d rather have real pudding once a month than a plastic snack pack of fake stuff made with sugar substitutes every single day.  Michael Pollan has written about how fast food has ruined our health by making our pleasures too quick and too easy.  There’s no denying that French fries are a delicious pleasure, but they’re supposed to be difficult and thus rarer– washing, peeling, slicing, soaking, frying, all of which are supposed to ensure that French fries are a sometimes food (to quote Cookie Monster).  The work of preparing food adds to the pleasure of eating and sharing it, and it helps ensure that we eat those most decadent of foods in moderation.

It is not a sin to enjoy food.  To me, it’s a sin not to.  Enjoying food will not automatically make us unhealthy.  In fact, I’d argue the opposite.  In learning to love all the crazy vegetables that showed up in my CSA boxes, I learned the pleasure of produce.  To delight in a vine-ripened heirloom tomato, just as much as I delight in rich, chocolatey pudding.  In discovering the real pleasure of all foods, I’ve found that that supposedly icky healthy stuff, those fruits and vegetables, are also sources of rich delights.  I taste and see that the Lord is good.  Because God is.  We are absolutely blessed with the crazy complicated system by which we taste and smell and digest and live.

Update: If you need help giving yourself permission to enjoy food, you may obtain an official license to enjoy tasty food here.

On another note: I’m heading out of town for a wonderful week of vacation with my husband, the first trip we’ve taken that wasn’t to visit someone in THREE YEARS.  We are crazy looking forward to it, and I’m planning to avoid the internet as much as possible while we’re gone.  So, expect the blog and my Twitter feed to be fairly quiet next week, and I’ll catch ya on the flip side, hopefully more relaxed.

8 Replies to “eating is a pleasure”

  1. love this post! there’s so much truth to it. it’s so important to learn to love food in a healthy way. thanks for the inspiration and have a super fun extra-long vacation!


    1. I hear ya! I also hear from our mutual friend SavannahB that you eat tasty local food in central AR, so I’ll be hitting you up for sources when I get there in May/June!


  2. “When are you going to lose that baby weight?”

    “I don’t know… but probably before you learn to stop saying stupid things like that to people.”


    Food is not the enemy — self-control is the enemy. As a person who struggles with the fact that he is not as svelte as he used to be, it can seem like the food you eat is causing the problem, but the food is just there; it’s the associations you have with food and a lack of moderation that are the real culprits. We have to get off this tangent of “food shaming” and get into looking at our eating habits.


  3. Lots of great links to explore here. Thanks for this. Admittedly, this is all a big huge issue with me.

    I enjoyed a five or so course meal last night at Ashley’s. I savored every bite of it and each sip of wine. I felt not one bit guilty. For something special like that, I enjoy it. It’s the smaller, stupider (fast food) decisions I make that bug me.

    (And I can’t wait to introduce you to Ashley’s!)


  4. FF have a great time on your vacation!

    I really, really, love this blog post. I don’t have much to add except to say I enjoyed reading it.


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