Food security. Food deserts. The hundred kilometre or hundred metre diet. Eating disorders. Comfort food. Discomfort food. Fast food. Slow food. Vegetarianism. Veganism. Maybe we are what we eat, but our relationship with food can certainly be conflicted and complicated!

These days we tend pretty much to go with the flow food-wise. Today, for example, we went up to the Shouldice Farms stand on Prince of Wales, bought strawberries and tomatoes, and proceeded on to Parkdale Market where we got some of the first local corn of the season, some blueberries, some broccoli, some more tomatoes (little one this time) and some green peppers. We cooked up the corn for lunch and then went to Purple Cow and had ice cream cones for dessert.

In the summer and the fall, when good fresh food is in season, life's good. I can eat strawberries every day throughout the local growing season and never get tired of them. Add a dash of Grand Marnier (which we've come to refer to as "joy juice") and some whipped cream and angel food cake, and that's even better. And I think for sure there's a blueberry pie and maybe a few blueberry muffins in our not-too-distant future! We did give Haskap berries a try this year too - not bad but not as good as blueberries (though they're apparently much hardier and can survive lower temperatures.

Strawberries are something I liked as a child too. I may or may not have related in this blog the story of how, at the age of about seven or eight, I broke out in hives all over my body. Alarmed, my mother took me to the paediatrician and the only thing she could think of that could have caused them was the strawberries I'd eaten the evening before. She said that moving forward I should generally avoid strawberries but after I recovered, perhaps occasionally risk "literally one strawberry" and see what happened.

I probably didn't eat too many more strawberries for the rest of that summer, but of course once they literally became forbidden fruit, I craved them all the more. When they were subsequently reintegrated into my diet, I had no further recurrences of hives and strawberries and strawberry shortcake once again took their place as one of my favoured desserts.

When my daughter was going to day care (between the ages of five and eight), there used to be field trips to pick berries every summer. In those days, she wasn't too crazy about the berries themselves but liked the cream and cake! That changed as she got older and her kids are fond of berries too, especially blueberries!

Corn is a bit of a different story. I rarely ate corn when I was growing up and from my mother's perspective, corn was something you fed to the chickens! My dad was a little more open-minded about food, I think - in fact, he often used to polish off the food that no one else wanted. My mother had various comments about the matter, one of her commonest being that he was "digging his grave with his teeth". He was, however, very thin and frail during his last days and weeks, so I seriously doubt that it was anything he ate that ultimately finished him off!

Anyway, corn on the cob is another of those foods that I rarely get tired of - though it's certainly helpful to have the dental floss close at hand afterwards!

Looking back at the title I chose for this post, I realize I haven't really said much about UNEASY relationships with food. I think I was planning to comment on things like the recent Netflix video about eating disorders in which Lily Collins (who herself battled an eating disorder) starred, or the recent evidence about the dangers of artificial sweeteners and wire barbecue brushes, or the requirement for restaurant chains to post calorie counts for their offerings... but that'll have to wait for another day.
We all know that food is about more than just physical nourishment. It's interesting to note how many religions prescribe periods of fasting for several weeks - Lent, Passover, Ramadan - followed by a day or so of feasting. So for now, let's leave aside aside illness, weight-loss diets, food allergies and sensitivities and consider the following question: What psychological and spiritual benefits do people derive from observing periods of fasting?

At first blush, the requirements imposed upon our diets by religious doctrine would seem in many ways to be diametrically opposed to those recommended by standard health and medical guides. For example, we are told that yo-yo dieting is bad for us and moreover, crash-diets for weight loss purposes do not work. If you go on a very strict diet, your metabolism will just slow down so that when you start eating normally again, weight will pile on even more quickly. We are also told that it's better to eat high-calorie foods early in the day and to eat more lightly in the evening. That way, we work off the calories in the course of our daily activities and in the evening, our bodies have time to assimilate the evening meal before we go to bed.

But isn't a fast period, followed by a feast day (or even feast-week), followed by a normal everyday diet (whatever that is), precisely an example of yo-yo dieting? And in many cases, the fast period calls for total abstinence from solid food between sun-up and sun-down, followed by a meal (though admittedly a light one) after dark.

There have to be some benefits to the fast period, other than the confidence that God won't strike you down with a thunderbolt!

I suspect it has something to do with generally slowing you down, giving you the personal space - as well as the social and community permission - for quiet reflection without constant bombardment from the all-pervasive technological distractions. The idea that the unexamined life is not worth living.

On the other hand, I guess a cynic would say that if you're food-deprived, sleep-deprived and getting headaches and dizziness and delirium as a result, you're that much more likely to see visions and mirages - which you'll interpret as signs from the gods if you happen to be a believer.

Or maybe, as boring and wishy-washy as it sounds, the truth lies somewhere in between?



October 2017



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