Sunday, December 6, 2009

Eating for pleasure/eating for health

Lately, I spent a great deal of time talking to my officemate about food. We share an interest in healthy eating, natural foods, and cooking from scratch, and a few days ago, she was extolling the virtues of drinking fresh vegetable juice. She feels that juicing vegetables to drink alleviates some of her anxieties about getting enough vegetables each day. While I share her anxieties about eating a balanced diet, I don't have any desire to drink veggie shooters. I don't think of myself as much of a hedonist, but I must say, I have zero interest in thinking of food, first and foremost, as fuel. Why gulp down fiber-less vegetable liquid when there are so many delicious ways to prepare your veggies?

I often see criticisms of our food-oriented society--our devotion to sharing a meal together, to popcorn at movies, guacamole at happy hour, pizza during late-night study sessions--and while I agree that the ubiquity of food at social gatherings contributes to our national love handles, I'm not remotely inclined to divorce food from fun. Enjoying an indulgent meal with loved ones is one of my greatest pleasures, and I want everything I eat to be reminiscent of that pleasure. Which isn't to say I need each bite to be indulgent-- but I do need my breakfast of steel cut oatmeal or my dinner of braised kale to provide me with pleasure and sustenance.

Furthermore, I think the sentiment which allows the health nut or obsessive dieter to down protein shakes and shots of wheat grass or to use spray-on butter-substitute is the same that encourages mindless chowing down at Olive Garden, Taco Bell, or some other purveyor of calorie-laden mediocrity. Yes, I acknowledge that food can't always be pleasurable: sometimes you have to eat airplane food; sometimes you can't afford to buy groceries or the time to cook a meal. But I do think that the goal should be a union of deliciousness and nutritiousness.