By Paul John Caña
By Paul John Caña
I grew up in a household where you ate whatever was on your plate. When we were kids, my siblings and I would occasionally beg our parents for a treat—fried chicken, hotdogs, spaghetti, basically “birthday” food—but for the most part, I remember the whole family gathered around the dining table during mealtimes and pretty much gobbling up everything on sight, down to the last morsel.
Which is why the concept of the picky eater is alien to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve since developed my own eating quirks (still can’t stomach stomach, or intestines, or any other animal innards), but I’ve always found it strange how some people voluntarily choose to avoid certain foods that seem perfectly, well, edible. Then I realized it’s not simply about being “picky.” In a thoroughly modern idiosyncrasy, many of us force ourselves to eat things we don’t really like, because we’re told they’re “good” for us. We also learn to reject food that we find generally palatable because “experts” say they’re “bad.” We’re bombarded with countless messages through different channels, from subtle nudges to blatant commands, urging us to go on fancy diets or “miracle cleanses,” to help us live longer, become stronger, be more beautiful, or the general, catch-all phrase “be healthier.”
So we become more vigilant about what we eat. If it’s not the adverse effect on our health, or environmental concerns, it’s ethical dilemmas surrounding their production and consumption that cause us to put these food items back on the grocery shelf/market stall/artisanal shop counter. But if you look hard enough on the Internet, you’ll find a reason not to eat every conceivable thing human beings have always thought of as food for thousands of years. A sampling:
So what’s left for us to eat? The answer is nothing, IF we choose to believe everything and everyone in this list. Where does that leave us? Gulping water and praying we don’t keel over and die from starvation?
There is nothing more intensely personal than our relationship with food; we put it inside our bodies and it literally becomes a part of us. While the latest fitness celebrity may insist otherwise, nobody knows our bodies better than ourselves. Sure we learn a thing or two from all these health gurus and personal trainers and chefs and food scientists and parents and friends (of course they mean well, they always do), and it’s not entirely illogical to get some expert advice on what to have for our next meal that could help us with our health goals, whatever they are. But in the end, as with most things, I think common sense should always be our guide.
Eating is functional, sure. It serves a purpose, which is essentially to replenish expended energy. But human beings have evolved from savage club-carrying hunter-gatherers into civilized, knife-and-fork-wielding folk. People don’t just eat for sustenance or because we’re basically sentient machines that need fuel to keep ourselves alive. We derive pleasure from taste and flavor. There is beauty and romance in that dish before its contents gets whisked away into our mouths. When food first comes in contact with our tongues, most of us immediately decide whether we like it or not. We learn to distinguish between the satisfying and the objectionable, the glorious and the mundane, the delicious and the disgusting. And all things being equal, the body will always have a hankering for that which brings fulfillment and joy.
So I don’t think we should ever be made to feel guilty about what we choose to consume. Other people can offer suggestions, but as long as I’m not throwing up all over them, what I eat is nobody else’s business but my own.