The meaning of food

In her blog the other day, Ai Lu wrote that "how you act towards food is more important than what you put in your mouth. That is, rather than worry so much about what I am eating, I would prefer to direct my energy towards how I eat."

Food supports health, no question about it. And yes, the nutrients and calories in the food do a whole lot of that. But the act of eating can nourish you in other ways. On a cold and blustery day like this one, when I was rushed for dinner and running errands and trying to Get It All Done, I pulled in at a Panera Bread and enjoyed a hot bowl of black bean soup in a sourdough bread bowl, slurped while sitting next to a (gas) fireplace. Gourmet? Likely not. Warm and bracing against a cool day and hectic night? Yep.

Until I got sick, I never gave much thought to how many things revolve around food. Because when I was sick, any event or activity that might involve food was off-limits. That meant pretty much anything, which also meant I missed out on pretty much everything. Even now, despite my chuckles and rueful head-shaking at the almost endless stream of pastries and deli trays that pass through my office (most of which are picked bare in microseconds by the vultures in the offices closer to the kitchen than I), I realize that food can link us to one another.

The fact that so many things seem to revolve around food should give us a clue as to the sheer number of ways food can provide sustenance to us. For immigrants moving to strange, far-away places, food is a reminder of home, the things we missed, the people we are. And, as many sociologists have found, immigrants give up their traditional foods last. Dress, language- all of those are acquired and old habits discarded (or at least shelved) long before traditional cuisine is eliminated.

Food can remind us of a fantastic vacation, or a loved one far away. This is emotional eating in the most positive sense: feeling homesick? Cook the dish your mom or dad always used to cook. It isn't eating-to-deal-with-feelings, it's eating-to-evoke-an-emotion.

I have been venturing back into my kitchen more and more lately, marking up old cookbooks, finding new recipes, tweaking them, experimenting. Despite the incredible amount of dishes I'm doing, I'm also learning that even cooking food can be nourishing. I get to be creative. Many of the dishes I would like to make require ingredients I don't have, can't afford, or aren't practical to buy for a single recipe (such as saffron). So I root through my pantry and see what I do have, then mix everything together and hope for the best.

And once in a while, like what I made last night, it turns out absolutely fantastic, served over egg noodles with a side of steamed broccoli with a hint of butter and Parmesan cheese.

With this, food is starting to come full circle.

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Sarah said...

"But the act of eating can nourish you in other ways."

Bean soup will forever remind me of my Gramps. Pecan Sandies (mmm cookies) will forever remind me my Grams. "Enchilada pie" will forever remind me of my entire family.

You hit the nail on the head with that one.

eliza said...

i love your blog and the idea of it. i am a recovering anorexic and my philosophy is that food is nourishment for you and your body.

A:) said...

oh Carrie! I need to read that today!

Thank you


Lisa said...

Exactly. While food is fuel, true, it's so much more.

Tiptoe said...

Carrie, good post. Food has a lot of meanings and there is such an interesting smell-memory association.

Good luck with your cooking adventures. It can be quite fun to dip into the kitchen and discover new dishes.

Ai Lu said...

I am so glad to hear that you are finding joy in cooking once more.

And yes, cooking food IS nourishing. I love hearing that other ED women are cooking for themselves, too. What an accomplishment that is, you know! You can't ignore food when you're face to face with an eggplant...

Ai Lu

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About Me

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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