Follow-up to last week’s Beyond Good and Evil (Food)

You just never know what people will respond to. I mean, who thought so many pet rocks would be sold?  I had one.

 

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The beanie babies craze passed me by, but you can read more about it here if you’re interested in its rise and fall.  If you’ve forgotten, here are some:

 

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What turns out to be hot vs. not is pretty unpredictable.  Witness my shock at getting 47 comments on last week’s post about “Beyond Good and Evil (Food)”.  Many thanks to all of you who read, commented, and liked/didn’t like the post.  All this activity got noticed by the folks at WordPress and made their Editor’s Picks (it’s here; scroll all the way down…).

It is always impressive to me how deeply our readers think about the issues we talk about in the blog.  The meanings they ascribe to food are moral, cultural, biological, psychological, political, intuitive, and spiritual.  One person mentioned our “thirst for redemption”, to which I’d add ravenous hunger as well.  Hunger for what, though?  Maybe sometimes it’s for a large bag of Chicago Mix.  I didn’t know what this was, but one reader shared a story that perfectly illustrates to me how food is Good and Evil at the same time:

Loved this, and I totally get it. There are some foods that I just can’t have in the house. Yesterday I had a complete conversation in my head over a bag of Chicago Mix that I bought at my husbands request…Sugar makes me feel sick, too much dairy and I start scratching-yet I couldn’t seem to stop myself from ripping open that Costco sized bag and transferring those sweet/salty kernels into my mouth. ( 2 cheese: 1 caramel=perfect ratio). I followed the popcorn with a big dose of self-recrimination and abuse before I finally came back to remembering that there is no moral value in eating or not eating popcorn. It is what it is. Let it go. And then I told my husband to enjoy it, because we are never having it in the house again.

In case you were wondering, here’s what Chicago Mix looks like.  I now want some too. Really.

 

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This reader’s comment shows how we can go from zero to desire to bliss to guilt to self-abnegation to detachment to domestic bossiness (albeit for everyone’s own good) in one paragraph.  Yep, that’s me too.

Some readers commented on the moral and political dimensions of food production and consumption, reminding me that most foods we eat are the outputs of industrial and corporate structures.  Another reader, angered by the bacon picture (which isn’t in my post, but somehow got added onto the publicity for the post), argued that food that comes from animal products has a different moral status, one that should affect our food buying and eating habits.  These are all central concerns for food ethics and for anyone who wants to eat well (in ways that make sense for them) and do good (in the ways they construe the good).

Turning inward– looking at the various ways I imbue food with meaning– for me, at least in this post, meant focusing on some of the ways we impose food norms or rules on ourselves.  No deep fried foods, no sodas, no gluten, no sugar– all of these were mentioned in comments (either proposing or opposing them).  There’s a lot of conflict within us.  Readers mentioned all of these directives, many of which collide, creating a multi-norm pileup when we get to the store or the table.

  • what’s healthy (to us or some authority)
  • what’s available
  • what’s affordable
  • what tastes good to us
  • what tastes good to others that we might not like (I just don’t like raw fish even though many people swoon over it)
  • what we like but can’t or don’t eat (for health, cost, access, religious, moral reasons)
  • what we don’t like but end up eating (for convenience, politeness, cultural conformity, cost)

I could go on.

So how shall we respond to our inner selves, who sometimes just want to know what’s for dinner? I can’t answer that question, other than to say this: eating is a long-term activity.  We get lots of chances every day to experience it in all of its dimensions.  Sometimes I know I want to prioritize certain feelings and concerns (e.g. fueling enough for a long ride or kayak trip).  Other times I’m in a creative mood and having people over for dinner.  Reenter the gnocchi, which one reader asked, “is it really a pasta?”  Well, here’s my word on the subject:  gnocchi are mainly made from potatoes (I make a mean sweet potato gnocchi) , but can be semolina-based (there are other options, too, see here for a bunch of unusual gnocchi recipes).  So some gnocchi are more pasta-like and others are not.  I plan to try this one, with olives and capers in tomato sauce, very soon.

 

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About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

4 thoughts on “Follow-up to last week’s Beyond Good and Evil (Food)

  1. Great post! Indeed, food can control our lives in a negative and positive way. It is all about proper education! Thank you for sharing😄😄

    Like

  2. Kim Solga says:

    Gnocchi is simply the best pasta ever. The Only on King in LonON makes outstanding gnocchi. Next time you visit, Catherine, make Sam take you there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • catherine w says:

      Kim– will do for sure! And thanks a lot for your reflections on last week’s post. I’m glad we are all involved in this conversation.

      Like

  3. I’m glad that it sparked such a discussion. It means that we’re taking the time to consider food in our lives and the role it plays and the power it can have. It means people are more aware and less robotic in the way they’re eating.

    Like

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