Resolutions for a better food life | On the table
We talk about our professional lives, our family lives, our social and sexual lives, so why not a food life? Food, Pleasure, Creativity, and the Food Connection allow for crossovers in these other areas and go far beyond the rubrics of eating habits and diet. I’m barely immune to the influence of diet industry money in January, which comes right after the holiday indulgence. But there is so much more to our complex food lives. With that in mind, here are some things I remember to do this year.
Lose yourself in the pleasure of food. Why stop mindfully eating when you can absolutely indulge? Whether it’s a whole crab or a peanut butter sandwich, flip your hair back, tuck a towel up your collar, and hit the town. Make unflattering noises. Ruin your sleeves. Allow yourself this pure joy in a tumultuous world. That we are equipped with senses that allow us to delight in the need for nourishment is a miracle — rejoice. The million things you’re freaking out about internally will still be there after you’ve fully enjoyed this glorious crust-to-crust sandwich.
Eat as locally as possible. Even if you’re not connected with eggs from a neighbor and a CSA membership, every time you choose local, it benefits the planet and/or Humboldt growers and businesses. Sometimes that means hitting the farmers market. Sometimes that means grabbing a burger and fries from a family joint instead of a corporate chain. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Get takeout from your favorite restaurant. Too many of these local restaurants are hanging by their fingernails right now. If there’s a place you’d hate to see go, order there. Whether you’re feasting on a full meal or just the soup you love, be as regular as possible – it all adds up. That fancy place you only visit on your birthday? Don’t wait or underestimate the joy of eating a once-annual treat out of your jammies.
Don’t drag restaurants on Yelp. You know when the waiter comes in and asks, “How are you?” Tell them. Truly. They probably want to do things right. Especially amidst the staffing and supply shortage pandemic, everyone has days off. But the scathing, anonymous review you were so eager to share will go on forever, doing a lot of damage and improving nothing. As with most relationships, direct communication — face-to-face, email, direct message, or even a note on a napkin — is healthier than posting. (Of course, if you’re outright abused, contact me and spare no detail.)
Let go of food shame. A lifetime of social training makes it hard to calm internalized judgments, but you’re not “good” or “bad” eating a salad or donut unless you stole it. The phobic fat’s moralizing about food and the body can kick in.
Save foods that have meaning to you. Look, I don’t know if cutting today’s food scapegoat will make you immortal or not. But I know what it’s like to deprive yourself of foods that are part of who you are, whether it’s in terms of culture, family, personal history or those little rituals that you invents itself. (I think back to the year I went without rice like a fucking mess.) And unless there’s a genuine medical reason – in which case, honey, I’m so sorry – it’s rarely worth going without entirely. food that nourishes your soul.
Cut yourself some cooking time. TV and Instagram chef contests can skew your idea of what home cooking really is and looks like — the day-to-day work and trial and error of it. Not every meal will be about stylish magazine shoots, and neither will your kitchen once you’re done cooking. Embrace your burnt meringues and fallen popovers on your beautiful, messy journey.
Try new things. Life is short. Push yourself and taste more of the world before you leave it.
Get this recipe. Family recipes and the traditions that go with them are not passed on if no one reaches out to take them. Especially if your family (blood or found) is scattered and not coming together these days, the opportunities to cook together don’t always arise. Ask your friend, relative or whoever for the recipe for that dish you like. Can you cook together virtually, phones propped up in your kitchens? Ask them where they found the recipe, when they first made it, who liked it (or didn’t) and how it has changed over the years. You’ll get history, personal histories, memorabilia and, if you’re lucky, the occasional scandal – far more than you can fit on a tattered, stained index card.
Remember who feeds you. This includes the people who raise, process, prepare and serve our food. Remember them not just when tipping or putting on a mask for takeout, but when voting on issues such as health, housing, workplace safety and wages.
Feed someone if you can. He can be lonely there – never more so than in a pandemic isolation. Feeding others can be just as nourishing as being fed. Double a batch of what you make and share it with someone who could use a homemade meal or cookies. Right now, there are probably more people who fit that description in your circle than ever before. It doesn’t matter if it’s store bought – it’s the gesture and the connection, as well as the food. Deposit a few dollars at the food bank or leave something in a small free pantry. Feed someone and feed your own soul.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (her) is the Journal’s Arts and Features Editor. Contact her at 442-1400, ext. 320, or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.