Essays

The lost sensuality of eating

I have a problem with vegans.

Okay, that is a rather sharp statement, and possibly unfair. It is more that I have a problem with our food system and food culture and how it necessitates the political, physical, and psychological creation of vegans and vegetarians.

You see, I love food. I love the feel of it, the preparation and cooking, and the eating of it.

We glorify food in the US;  we glorify chefs, we put them on thrones and build cults around them. We have multiple networks dedicated to cooking and cooking shows… but somehow all of it, the noise and the lights and the deep, deep critical articles about avocado toast and Salt Bae–

They strip away the simple pleasure of food.

Food, for me, symbolizes the heart and the hearth. It is home; it is remembered flavors and the events that happened when I first tasted things. It is sharing and generosity. It is hours spent at my kitchen table. It is life itself.

And so, whenever I encounter someone who is a vegan or vegetarian, by choice, not by medical necessity, there is a part of me that screams: “But why?!” It is not dissimilar to when I encounter someone who has a very, very strict diet or a very, very strict – and long! – list of things that they do not eat or do not like or have never tried and will not try-

Why?!

There is so much to be discovered. The silky and the tart; the smooth and the crunchy; even textures that I find challenging, I want to try, I want to engage with, I want to play with and to do so with someone else, because food is life. There is an emotional connection that can be created through what we eat and how and I think if there is something we all, as human beings, seek, it is connection.

Why would we rob ourselves of one of the most beautiful and meaningful ways in which to connect with someone else?

My table is a representation of my heart. When I feed someone, it is not out of perfunctory dispensation of a duty, but a true, genuine intention to share a piece of how I care, even when I may not have the words for it. It is not so much the laboring over a hot stove for hours to produce a single meal, it is more the opportunity to convey how much I value a person in my life.

If you eat only nuts and berries, what am I to do with you? If I cannot introduce you to the sweet crunch of caramelized pork belly, have I failed to share the breadth of my world with you?

Of course, it is not something as plain as that, nor is it a hard and fast rule. There are things I can do with nuts and berries … there are things I can do. Rather, I just want the chance to indulge – I want everyone to have the opportunity to do so – to celebrate life and all its sublime pleasures, most particularly our eaten ones.

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