Something to Think About: Food, Pleasure & Health

People’s philosophies on food are all over the map. Think about that chick on YouTube that consumes a concerning amount of daily bananas? Or that dude on your Facebook that posts pictures of lil’ refrigerator dishes filled with sad-looking broccoli and grilled chicken? Or, perhaps, consider the Paula Deen phenomenon of a truckload of butter in, like, everything.

I started thinking about this a while back when I bought a stack of refrigerator dishes (yes, exactly like what I was commenting about above). It made me a little sad, to be honest. Why? When you make eating healthy easy breezy, it’s easier to adopt it as a habit. But for me, it felt like those dishes meant something black and white. Like, by using these, I was committing to a certain lifestyle. (A little ridiculous, I know.)

Where’s the joy in eating straight-up plain grilled chicken that’s been sitting in the fridge since Monday or ten bananas? And wouldn’t consuming a stick of butter in one sitting make you feel a little ill? (I ain’t hating, by the way, merely stating my personal observation. Maybe that chick really really really loves bananas.)

There’s definitely something to be learned from delving into other people’s lifestyles. Particularly people that embody a passion for good eats or, conversely, someone who adheres to a very specific diet. Because something works for Jane Doe doesn’t mean that it’ll work for you or me. But I think it’s incredibly important to keep in mind the joy of eating a damn good meal.

A Chef’s POV

Anthony Bourdain approaches food with a certain ferocity, a joie de vivre’. He’s a chef, so is that surprising?

He joyfully hates on convenience food. I recently read an article (link here) where he says he refuses to eat airplane food. “No one has ever felt better after eating plane food. I think people only eat it because they’re bored. I don’t eat on planes. I like to arrive hungry.”

(In case you wanna know his airplane travel tip: “For a super-long flight, I’d order cheese and s**t load of port. I’d eat some cheese and drink myself stupid.”)

In his book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, he writes (in reference to his first oyster and first lesson about food):

“I learned something. Viscerally, instinctively, spiritually—even in some small, precursive way, sexually—and there was no turning back. The genie was out of the bottle. My life as a cook, and as a chef, had begun. Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight and impress. It had the power to please me…and others. This was valuable information.”

This man’s life revolves around food. He tours countries for their local haunts, street food as much as he visits the Michelin-starred joints. (Side note, how a tire company’s guidebook to regional restaurants became so iconic, someone please elucidate me!) I think it’s important to note how much bliss that a just-caught fish roasted over a campfire or a multi-course, weirdly-but-beautifully-plated dinner brings Mr. Bourdain.

A Bloggers POV

What’s Gaby Cooking is a multi-platform community. She snaps (definitely worth a follow, by the way. @WhatsGabyCooking), she blogs, she photoshoots, she travels. I absolutely loved following her on your journey in Italy. She shared lush pictures of the scenery, stunning old-world architecture, the prosciutto, the spritzers she was drinking and the glorious carb-y pastas. But it’s mostly the food. Surprised?

Every Friday, the blogger puts out a ‘how to’ on anything from DIY granola bars to eclectic pizzas. At the end of it, she turns the camera around to focus on her face as she takes the first bite. And it’s really freaking clear how happy well-prepared food makes her.

But it’s clear that she’s also a proponent of that pesky “balance” I’ve been hinting at. At the very top of her blog’s ‘About Me’ page, it reads:

“Hey everyone, welcome to What’s Gaby Cooking! WGC is a celebration of what it’s like to live the California Girl Life. That means it’s always sunny, green goddess salads for lunch are a great idea, slutty brownies for dinner are equally as acceptable and I’ll never say no to a burrito with extra guacamole – it’s all about balance!”

Personal POV

In my younger and stupider years, my mentality was the less that I’d eat, the healthier (read: thin) I’d be. Yet eating was also a de-stressor. I thought gyms were for meat heads and lifting would turn women into scary, buff, and unsexy creatures. (Oh how wrong I was.)

I’d skip breakfast, drive half an hour to school, do the learnin’ thing, drive home, drive to work (Ace Hardware cashier), eat some shitty salad in the break room, work until late, then swing by Hannafords and grab a pint of Ben & Jerrys (the thought was: hey, I deserve this).

I’m learning that it’s all about balancing the ‘iffy, indulgent foods’ (I’m looking at you McDonalds breakfast/Safeway double-chocolate muffins) with market-fresh veggies or a whey-protein shake after a gym sesh. I’ll meal prep that damn grilled chicken for the sake of health and laziness. And I’ll also hit McDonalds on a hungover Sunday. I can now take (guilt-free) pleasure in a leisurely moment slicing avocados, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and French bread (with cabernet, of course).

In my humble opinion, life should not be about deprivation. But it also shouldn’t be about getting sick after eating 3 servings of ice cream.


But the point of this post isn’t to wax poetic about how gloriously balanced my diet is now (it’s not, but I’m working on it). It’s to remind myself of the importance of good AND healthy good. And also the pleasure of moderately unhealthy food. And I’d love to hear your take:

Are you part of the meal prep club? What kind of food habits have you adopted that you love? Any that you wanna change? Anyone else freaking love Anthony Bourdain? How do you keep yourself healthy while still being indulgent?

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