There are nearly as many food aphorisms and adages as there are things to eat. Or not to eat. Humans have long sought specific herbs, seeds, barks, flours, shellfish, eggs, and much, much more for the decoctions and concoctions made of them as treatment or cure for far more than starvation. Theories abound regarding what is and isn’t healthful and when and why and for whom, and they swing from one extreme to another at the drop of a spoon. The only fairly dependable approach, it would seem, is to listen to one’s own body. Not such a bad thing to do, in any event, but remarkably rare among the extreme advocates of numerous dietary practices, for whom their personal insights and experiences become a matter of faith.
Indeed, faith (as expressed in religions) has long been a significant factor in shaping what is deemed good or ill at table. Religions often determine what their adherents consider healthful or horrible, sacred or profane. Many religions require strict practice of particular dietary laws, from veganism to vegetarianism to specifying what meats or fruits one may or may not eat and how they must be prepared and in what season they may be embraced. My own beliefs about foods are far less religion-driven–as you can probably tell from my food-related posts here, anyway–but I don’t think religious strictures are any more or less perfect or questionable than dietary practices developed by most other means. I would no more knowingly offend anyone’s religious dietary practices than tell them they should eat foods they’re deathly allergic to or that they must like or dislike the same food and drink as I do. And let’s just be honest here: if others say No Thank You to something I like, then there’s more of it for me!
But what is on my food-crazed mind on this particular day is the practice of finding what foods suit one’s own particular health and happiness. Aside from any laws and limitations, and of course availability and accessibility, we must make constant choices about what to eat. Nearly as long as humans have eaten with any deliberation, any sense of knowing what will kill them or preserve their lives, they have also looked at foods as capable of qualifying the degree of health and well-being they enjoyed.
Tomatoes, perhaps because they are members of the Solanum clan, the nightshades, were considered poisonous in some places (including North America) long after other places’ cuisines were safely and even happily employing them as food. Consciously or not, we all revisit the notion of a comestible‘s safety and health-enhancing properties rather constantly, choosing those things whose tastes we prefer or that make us feel new-and-improved in any way, and avoiding those that give us heartburn, nausea, gallbladder attacks, the Wind, loss of hair, loss of appendages, dropsy, dyspepsia or excessive whimsy. (Well, masochists aside, at least.) Herbalists and nutritionists teach us the known and purported characteristic effects of pretty much everything that can be chewed or swallowed. And ultimately, all I can do is try to learn from my own body what it does and doesn’t want or need.
That’s not to say that I will always do what I believe is best for my health and welfare, by any stretch of the imagination. And you know I have one.
What I want is to feel good. And sometimes stuff that’s not necessarily guaranteed good for me makes me feel good.
It’s really quite amazing what the things we eat and drink can do to us, in us and for us. And I’m not just talking about pharmaceutical effects. Necessarily. See, lunch affects how we feel until dinner, yes, but there’s also the general effect on mood and attitude, on what we see when we look in the mirror, on whether we feel healthier and happier or more impressive in any way. Part of me wants to believe that if I just ate the right stuff I actually would look fabulous in my long-ago orange fake-fur trench coat. That I would be suddenly as smart as I’ve always thought I was and solve all the problems of the world. And of course, that I would be the most spectacular version of myself possible and live that way for another half-century or so at least.
But really, I’m just happy when I figure out what pleases my inner workings and makes me feel pleasantly sated and really ready for whatever the next few hours bring. Oh, and doesn’t make me break out like I’ve reverted to my teens. I’ll get back to you when I’ve developed the perfect diet for all humanity. All I know so far is that it has lots of butter, salt, and chocolate in it. And that it guarantees a certain degree of both inner peace and vigorous smiling when taken regularly and judiciously.