Forkways #19: Staff of Life

Why do we eat food?
We may be under the mistaken point of view that we eat food to survive. We have long since abandoned the elements of food that keep us alive and are more concerned with how food tastes, or makes us feel, or makes us look to those around us. We are concerned with calorie counts, verification of organic, all natural, no sugar added, and what we are allowed to eat.

What is the language of food?
Foodies talking about tastes and textures and satisfaction levels,
Nutritionists talk about diets, calorie counts, complex carbohydrates, fiber intake.
Restaurants talk about ingredients and prices.

We are missing the discussion of flavor and agriculture more often than not. The sociology of food is both the combination of a capital focused society and the vanity and social pressures of health.

At its most basic level, as Thoreau writes, food is about fuel. But as we emerge from a survival situation, food becomes a whole myriad of things beyond fuel. Satisfaction, satiation, comfort, happiness, health, weight, diet, politics, economy, ecology, sustainability, and allowances.

When we eat in public we feel unknown judgement about our food choices or quantities taken. Fat people do not want to appear fat. Hungry people do not want to appear fat. Women do not want to appear fat. Food and fat have a very intimate relationship. While fat, obesity, being overweight, has less to do with food than it is culturally or socially assigned in the US.

If two people eat the same amount of food and partake in the same physical activity and one is chubby and one is thin, how is the chubby person perceived that the thin person isn’t?

Why do we eat food? Food is life, food is knowledge. Food is about chemistry, biology, physiology and other aspects of science I don’t even begin to comprehend. The history of food is born in the Garden of Eden. There Eve eats the apple/fruit and man is fallen, or gains knowledge. Even the first story of food is a convoluted one. Each baby is born then suckles on the breast of its mother or on the nipple of a bottle. Without these sips there is no continuation of life.


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