We are embarking on the best holiday of the year, in my humble opinion, Thanksgiving. This holiday centers on gratitude, yet more specifically thanksgiving for our blessings of food. We express this thankfulness by sharing our bounty of food with family and friends.
Many people pray over their food. Most Christians thank God for their food. Part of the famous Psalm 23 includes, “give us this day, our daily bread.”
Do you remember the song, “Let us break bread together…?” An African American spiritual from the 1920s, this simple little hymn was included in our United Methodist hymnal and traditionally sung during communion services.
Many social interactions are cemented over a meal, food buying rituals, or snacking on some sort of food. And we all have keen food memories. For example, I associate my dad with sardines, fig bars, olives, and sandwich cookies. My mom baked bread when I was growing up, so I think of her every time I enter a bakery. She also made homemade French fries, tapioca pudding, and “glorified rice;” for all of which I will always remember her.
We all have engaged in one or more dysfunctional relationships in our lifetime. Some of them we can get out of and others we must work through.
I think it’s bad, however, that the dysfunctional relationship that I am currently embroiled in is with one of the necessities of life: food. It’s complicated.
Flannery O’Connor said, “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” Ain’t that something.
I’m having difficulty “stomaching” some recent changes to my diet. I have what probably could be termed a common sense, atop a reasonably informed understanding of nutrition. I’ve been forced, however, by a digestive malady to throw out my long-held knowledge of “what’s healthy” to eat. What once did the trick in keeping my health in check, came back to bite me in the you know what.
Grocery shopping became a conundrum. I pretty much bypassed the most familiar aisle to me over the last twenty years, the produce aisle, my favorite. Vegetables and fruit have comprised a massive portion of our household food consumption, with a little bit of protein, a few carbs, and a fair number of grains, on the side.
A Mediterranean diet, chock-full of fresh fruit and vegetables, has been the basis of our household diet for decades. We all know that the sugar, salt, and texture of snack foods attract us like bees to nectar and gnats to our eyes. Do you remember the Lays potato chip ad from years ago, that you “can’t eat just one?”
My Mediterranean diet gets skewered with the first bite of snack food. Few of us can resist that attraction forever. It nearly requires the discipline and support of a twelve-step program to resist an addiction to junk food.
Some mornings I have awakened to the day saying to myself, “I’m just eating food today, no snacks, no sweets, just food.” That’s a silly statement, I know, but it’s my way of heading back into the reality of healthy eating.
I recall an old Saturday night live skit where Belushi and Murray or one of the other originals from the cast, broke down a Snickers bar via the good groups, claiming the Candy bar met all the nutritional categories for healthy eating. I wish.
We all know the basics of the food groups to be protein, vegetables, cheese/milk/yogurt, fats, fruit, and grains. But then there are “food groups” like vegan, vegetarian, no-carbs, low-carbs, Mediterranean, gluten-free, no-fat, keto, Atkins, low-calorie, and my new category: bland!
When you love the flavor of good food, bland is a horror like no other, when it comes to food enjoyment. There’s no way to “bon apetit,” with bland food. I can take eliminating some foods. In fact, I once read a little book called, “French Women Don’t Get fat,” that suggested, “corn is for cows and potatoes are for pigs,” so I’ve avoided but haven’t completely cut out these starches. Until now, with a bland diet.
Forget bland for now, let’s talk food. Food can be a lot of things. We each form opinions and make food choices based on only God knows what.
Food can be funny. Remember the Griswold’s from the movie, “Christmas Vacation?” Their Christmas meal included crunchy turkey; a lime jello mold garnished with cat litter; it was funny food.
Food can be fast. Welcome to America. There are food trends, and there is traditional, or classic food. You decide which of this kind of food pertains to the “farm-to-table craze.” It’s kind of funny to us rural dwellers who have eaten farm-to-table for as long as we can remember.
Food can be categorized. Surely, you’ve heard of the Food Pyramid and how many servings of various categories of food we should consume in a day.
Food can be picked at, picked up, and picked apart. Food can be annoying, and we get fed up.
Food can unite us and bond us together. Food can also separate us. For example, you’ve heard, “yuck, how can you eat that?” Or, “I can’t eat thus and such.”
Food can make us sick and it can equally make us well. We can eat too much food or too little food; but food cannot be avoided as it is a necessity of life. We all consume food and we waste food too.
Apparently, there are right foods and wrong foods. Food can be fancy or it can be plain. Food can be bland or it can be caliente.
Food is primarily fuel. It doesn’t matter what foodies, food critics, or food writers tell us. We will eat what we eat and most of us are thankful for our food. Bon apetit and Happy Thanksgiving.