Ever since I tried roasted brussels sprouts at Sasa, I have been slow-cooking the idea for a post about Food as a Metaphor for Life. I’ve never had any doubt the recipe would turn out wonderfully and that it would be a masterpiece of culinary/literary philosophical mumbo gumbo.
By the way, the brussels sprouts were well prepared, perfectly cooked, according to my friends who enjoyed them. They looked appetizing on the plate! And yet…. nah, I really didn’t like them. Ah, but that is not the point! I TRIED them!
Back to writing… I have no idea why I developed baker’s block. I’m excited about the ingredients, the aromas, and the flavors. Perhaps the devil is in the prep work.
Yet, as I sit and concoct this, I realize there is no conscious prep work needed. The liquid ingredients flow without measurement. The process feels exactly like winging it with no recipe. Checking the refrigerator, I find that everything I desire is sitting right there waiting to spill out onto the page.
And that is exactly the point. I love spontaneity in life as I love freelance cooking. See, right there, I had never consciously heard the term “freelance cooking”, so I consulted Da Google. It meant exactly what I had in mind; I found the phrase I wanted as surely as Julia Child adds more butter.
I can relate nearly everything in my life to two subjects: music and food. Music is the soundtrack of my life and a tremendously important monitor of my emotional health. However, I digress; I post frequently about music. Today’s topic is FOOD.
My brain is bursting with the concepts and connections that convey how perfectly my metaphor satisifies me the way a great dessert finishes a delicious meal. My fear is that my typing and wordsmithing will not do justice to my topic. It’s like a fear of forgetting to add a key ingredient and ruining a dish. I will simply try to do my best.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that food is not simply a metaphor for life. It is quite obviously a sustainer of life. I am quite active, and I burn a lot of calories each day. I believe that even sitting still, my brain must be using fuel at a high rate. As a result, I need and want to consume food rather continually throughout each day. In this way, I can validate the notion of “food as fuel”.
Yet, food is NOT simply fuel to me. Bear with me; it’s very important for the reader to understand how strongly I feel about this, or you literally won’t know the first thing about me. Food is meant to be savored! Why? Because (1) I feel eternal gratitude that I have the means to put food on my plate each day when so many millions of people do not; and (2) I never know when I might die and never have a chance to enjoy dark chocolate or smoked salmon again. In other words, fine dining is a rare treat, and life is fleeting.
Think for a second about one of your very favorite foods… Maybe it’s steak or lobster. Perhaps you love a big salad featuring fresh spinach or kale. If you’re like a lot of folks, a special dessert like apple or pumpkin pie comes to mind… OK,, now can you imagine NEVER EVER having the opportunity to have that food again?! Seriously, not to be a downer, but that would TOTALLY SUCK. I mean, it goes without saying, that would be a nightmare. Right, so doesn’t that thought make you want to go eat some?! Sure it does.
I’m not saying I think that way each and every day. What I’m saying is, I do not take it for granted that I will always be able to eat what I want when I want. Soooooo, I try to make the most of each meal, just as I try to Carpe Diem the way the movies and Facebook memes tell us to do.
I honestly believe that there is an IDEAL food or beverage I could choose to consume at each meal and snack time. I know, it seems too high a degree of difficulty, huh? But I am all about high degrees of difficulty — at work and at play. (One exception is artichoke leaves; I like the flavor, but the volume of food matter just isn’t worth my time, scraping each leaf with my teeth. There must be an easier way. Oh yeah, there is! They are called artichoke hearts in a jar! Again, I digress…) What I mean is, when I am deciding what to eat, I often (not every time) run through, for example, the list of major protein sources and choose the one that excites me the most at that moment. For example, I may think, “Chicken — blah. Seafood — yay!”
When we are or were in our youth, we can be “picky” eaters. Maybe we refused to eat our vegetables or had an aversion to “weird” food like octopus or oysters. That’s often because when we are growing up, everything can seem so new, overwhelming, and confusing that we have a need to feel safe and secure. In other words, we often seek basic comfort foods. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s very natural. And yes, we don’t need to be young to crave comfort foods. Safety and security are timeless human needs.
The older we get, the more experiences we have. We may test our boundaries by daring to try drugs or hang out with people we think are exciting, rebellious types. At the same time, we may sample “forbidden fruits”.
With food, just as in meeting someone romantically for the first time, the WOW factor is super important! Why order bread if you have the chance to try bruschetta with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and hot chili pepper flakes? Why go out on a date with someone who is “nice” if there is someone else who makes your knees wobble and your skin get goosebumps?
Thus, it isn’t just about what to eat. Who we dine with is incredibly important. Isn’t it true that we often leave a restaurant raving about how great the food was when we shared the meal with loved ones or best friends? Whereas, dining alone can be nice, but it’s just not the same. We treasure those times spent with our peeps. Everything tastes better when surrounded by love — just as in marriage and significant-other relationships.
It’s also about how you want to go about eating it. Most of us like to eat out at restaurants, and that opens up a huge range of fun things to consider: ambiance, views, quality of service. Just as in relationships, when dining out it’s very nice to have someone take care of us. We want to feel like we are the only customer, or at least the most important customer, in the establishment. We want a nice view — either exterior views of trees or the ocean, say, or a nice vantage point for people-watching. In short, great ambiance, like a beautiful neighborhood, is not to be underestimated.
How about Where? We often eat out when traveling. Vacationing in exciting new places (or tried and true old favorite places) goes hand in hand with exploring new restaurants and sampling exotic cuisine! For me, travel, dining out, and discovering great FOOD are complimentary and supremely rewarding adventures. All of these things go together. They are the spices of life! When I revisited Manhattan in April, I loved checking out the museums and the icons like the Empire State Building. Yet, what excited me the most was the chance to try some awesome restaurants and amazing cuisine, like foie gras! Here’s a link to some of my foodie adventures…
Recently I wrote a post about running my first marathon this year. That felt like a big accomplishment for me, and yet I am also very proud of having recently tried kimchi for the the first time! And I liked it, much to my surprise.
The running thing was obviously much more of a physically demanding challenge, and yet in its own way, trying a food I was previously afraid to eat was equally significant to me in that I overcame a mental obstacle. Both experiences were fun and expanded my horizons.
My co-workers often comment about how much and how often I eat. We have fun with it; I like to laugh at myself! People also tell me how active I seem to be. Again, to me these personality traits are like peanut butter & jelly, turkey & stuffing, biscuits & gravy, cookies & milk (the list goes on and on). I have a big appetite for food and an even bigger appetite for life. I like taking risks and trying new things.
All of these themes mesh like a well-designed, multi-course, prix fixe meal at a dining mecca like Chez Panisse. I love merrily eating my way through my day, moving from task to task and energetically attacking each physical activity. Food both fuels my pursuits and dangles like wonderfully braised carrots as rewards for my taste buds.
I could go on an on. And I will! Meal to meal, day to day, always searching for and discovering new taste sensations and satisfying pursuits. It’s the stuff that fulfills me and makes me happy.