Saturday, October 6, 2012

How food nourishes our soul.

When we are born, the first thing that most of us do is cry.  Perhaps we are crying out because our world has changed so quickly; from floating in amniotic joy to suddenly being thrust into a cold, brightly lit room with little warmth or comfort. So, most of us, after quickly being cleaned off but still screaming, are offered to our mother's welcoming arms.  And then, to calm our frazzled nerves, we are fed.

And that is the beginning of our love affair with food.

Food nourishes much more than our body.  It nourishes our soul.  It defines who we are.

Think back to family celebrations. To happy times and also to sad. And think about what brought us all together and soothed our souls.  The table, laden with food. 

Special meals served down through the generations. Birthday cakes. The sad buffet after the funeral.  The Friday drinks with co-workers and friends. All more than simply food, they are part of who we are.

Think about your favorite recipes and cookbooks. The changing of seasons and how you long for your mother's stew on the first cold day of fall. The camp-outs with s'mores made over the open fire.  Kool-aid in the summer.  Cider in the fall.  Steaming hot chocolate after the first snowfall of winter.

All bring memories that comfort. All things we long for and enjoy.  Just thinking about it gives me a wonderful feeling.

Then comes the comfort 'food patrol' and, just like that, good feeling gone.  They are the ones that simply see food as nutrition. They are the ones glowering at you as you savor that first ice cream cone of summer.  The ones who never, ever have had a Coke and a smile. The ones that make you feel guilty and shameful when you even consider having fried dough at the State Fair. They take all the joy out of food and leave us feeling somewhat deflated.

So, many of us hide our real food needs in shame.  We worry what someone will think if we serve our kids a soda or a candy bar or, God forbid, fast food.  So we eat in the car or on the run or in the darkness of our family room after midnight.

Our nation has become neurotic about food. The joy has been taken out of it.  And so we have an epidemic of obesity. And I see a distinct link between the two.

Now that we are forbidden to enjoy what serves our soul, we eat like soulless junkies.  We fill up on  things that are laden with chemicals; with a list of ingredients that only a chemist would understand. We eat a lot of those things because someone said they are "healthy."  We eat to fill ourselves up, but find that we feel empty instead.  So we keep eating.  And that is not good, not good at all.

What we need are are more meals that feel like a hug and less that feel like a slap in the face. We don't have to gorge. We can savor. We can enjoy.  And it will fill us up like nothing else can, because small portions of something that we desire and need are much more fulfilling than any large portion of "should."

So today, feed your soul.  Find that old recipe that your mom cooked for a special Sunday meal. Forget about calories and fat content just for a day.  Eat like generations past have eaten.  Savor food that has real ingredients that your grandmother would recognize. You will be better for it.  You will.

We have not become healthier with better food knowledge.  We have become sicker. Generations past did not have obesity, as much heart disease or as much cancer.  They didn't.  But somehow we think we have become wiser about our food.  I don't think so.  Not by a long shot.

So, enjoy the fall season.  Go apple picking and bake a pie. Have cider and a donut. Just a little, not a a lot. A little bit of something wonderful is so much better than a big helping of low calorie anything.  Mary Poppins once famously said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down" and also, "Enough is as good as feast."

She was so right.  She should have been a nutritionist.

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.
~Charles M. Schulz

The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.
~Julia Child

He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “Celebration.” 
~Michael Pollen

Great restaurants are, of course, nothing but mouth-brothels. There is no point in going to them if one intends to keep one's belt buckled.
~Frederic Raphael


  1. Love this as I love all your postings. makes me hungry for my mother's pasta sauce!!

  2. I just love your blog!!! You need to write a book. And I relate to food in so mnay ways! This was great to read. Thanks!

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