Exhibit A: After retrieving the children at lunch, I sent a text to my husband, lamenting: “I could probably trade my right arm for a Wendy’s chicken sandwich right now.” He thought it was a reflection of how bad the kids were acting, when in fact it simply indicated how much I did not want to have to assemble my own lunch, specifically because my taste buds could go for that crunchy texture of the sandwich, nestled between the soft goodness of A BUN. And please don’t forget to smother it in mayo.
Exhibit B: I went to Target for invitations. I spent $100 and was convinced that the trail mix I purchased tasted 500x better than what I purchase at Meijer because Archer Farms uses some sort of intoxicating visual drug. (I believe the professionals call this “packaging.”)
Try as I might, I’m a product of my environment. I live in a fast food world and my expectations of immediate gratification aren’t much different than my neighbor, Susie’s. So much of who I am comes from the places and experiences of my culture and surroundings. For the best and worst, culture forms us. It’s like a textured table; when the play-doh of our lives is shaped and rolled and created into a ball, the imprint from that texture will be visible. We’ll take different forms and functions, but our culture and surroundings, our experiences and expectations, leave impressions.
So my recent gastronomical experiment has opened my eyes to our food culture. I’m suddenly on the outside looking in, completely aware to the ways in which I formerly lived. I see habits I never knew I have. Namely, being prone to mindlessly consume for gratification.
When limited by what you eat and how it’s prepared, you become increasingly aware of food sources. Food no longer fits simply into categories of “tastes good and I want it”, “healthy, so I should eat it” or “I hate brussel sprouts” but instead good and bad have a new ring. Most of the time nothing in and of itself is “bad” but rather someone tried too hard to improve a good thing. (Like McDonald’s oatmeal. Something that is, by definition, an ingredient, contains 8 gazillion ingredients. Just stop messing with it, people!)
I’ve long been fascinated by Jewish food laws and customs and secretly idolized living a kosher life. It’s probably my rule-driven nature, but I loved this idea from afar since reading Lauren Winner. Most of all, and especially now, I love that God asked his people from early on to actually think about food. Not just what it is, or label it “good” or “bad” (He created it and said it was good, so that part’s been covered). But instead of thoughtlessly consuming, perhaps food is something that should be mindfully enjoyed and appreciated. You can’t observe kosher without asking questions such as “what is this?” and “where did it come from?” And these are good questions to be faced with: it comes from God. It exists to nourish you, not serve as a crutch for comfort or satisfaction.
It’s to be enjoyed, but not abused. Appreciated. Savored.
But it’s become clear in the past 3 months that these were not my habits and attitude surrounding food. We live in such a place and age of abundance that we’ve been robbed the luxury of reflection.
I’ve got probably 3 more months of a grain-free life ahead (aiming for 1 year to wean Baby C). Will we continue on in our current state? Probably not. (The GAPS diet was created as a temporary means to healing, not a long-term solution for living. Amen and amen). You can believe I’ll somehow get my hands on a Padrone’s breadstick slathered in ranch. Will we revert to life as before? Probably not. This little hiatus from living as a food zombie has awakened me to what and how we consume. What is needed, what is warranted and what is truly wanted. How I react and how I live with intentionality.
Paul spoke some true wisdom in 1 Corinthians: Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. I’ve lived 30 years believing that if it was served on a plate, then it was good for a meal. I don’t believe that’s the case anymore. Eating has become different than consuming. “What I feel like” no longer runs unopposed in the race for what to serve, though it retains its voice and vote.
Moving forward, I anticipate some challenges in finding balance (I know – who? Me?). I want to live offering the best to my home and family and self and God. And I want to dredge a pita chip through Laura’s artichoke dip – I believe that my experience of this world will be lessened if I don’t.
Most of all, I don’t want to return to my thoughtless habits about food. Not just “what is it?” but also why I want it, what it’s good for and where it came from. Who touched it. How it was prepared. And most of all, with whom I’ll enjoy it.