Monday, March 13, 2023

Eating and Drinking

I don't think I've ever written a post about eating and drinking. Yesterday, I was in a café looking at people eating and drinking, and I had the idea for a blog post about it.

I love eating and drinking, but I tend to dislike conversations about eating and drinking. Foodie conversations bore me. I'm sure this is my loss. But I find myself struggling to find something to say in foodie conversations. Once I've said whether I like or don't like the taste of something, I don't really know where to go from there. Again, I'm sure it's a lack of imagination or appreciation on my part. (I hate the idea that not being interested in something is ever a cause to boast.)

I've noticed that foodies are generally light eaters, while hearty eaters (like myself) are often not foodies. Perhaps this is because hearty eaters like to know what they're getting. I take my food so seriously that I don't want to experiment. I want to eat what I know I will like-- and lots of it.

I've been a hearty eater all my life. (A "trencherman" was an old word for this, one whose loss I regret.) When I was a kid, I was chubby, and I got cruelly teased about it, which caused me a lot of anguish. I've lost and put on weight throughout my adulthood. I don't get neurotic about it. Right now, I'm overweight, but not remarkably so. (I was at a funeral a few weeks ago and someone who hadn't seen me for months said: "You've lost weight.")

Anyway, the point of this blog post isn't my weight. I just want to make the point that I like eating and drinking, and I've always liked eating and drinking. I've never really understood the sentence: "I forgot to eat". I've never forgotten to eat. Pretty much the only times I don't feel like eating are when I'm nauseous. I think I could easily have three dinners every day.

And of course, not all the pleasures of food and drink are to do with the actual eating. There's an element of ceremony, ritual, cheerfulness. This is what struck me when I was in the restaurant yesterday. I realized how much pleasure I took in the spectacle of people eating and drinking, the atmosphere. The clink of cutlery on plates, the scent of food, the steam rising from tea and coffee, the whole air of enjoyment.

I especially like the sight of people drinking tea and coffee. The simple sight of somebody holding a cup of coffee gives me pleasure. (I like the phrase "a cuppa joe".) The simplicity of the pleasure is part of the appeal. I find myself thinking: "Well, whatever else is going on in that person's life, whatever else is happening in the world, they can at least enjoy a cup of coffee right now, on this day, in this moment."

And, the threat of food shortages aside, there's something very dependable about the pleasures of food and drink. They come around on a daily basis. Unless I die unexpectedly in the very near future, I'm almost certainly going to have another cake, another sandwich, another piece of chocolate. I may well have many, many more in my future. That's something to look forward to, to be grateful for.

The simple pleasures of food and drink are also a pleasing contrast to the more sophisticated pleasure that tend to be the focus of our lives-- whatever is occupying us at the moment, be it work, a hobby, the news, family, study, all the multitude of activities that preoccupy us. I've notice that the meals and drinks I enjoy the most are the ones I eat or drink while I'm intent on something else (I don't necessarily mean doing that thing while eating). It's an added pleasure.

Food and drink is something that's at once universal and beguilingly particular. Everybody eats and drinks, pretty much every day. Sitting down to eat together is an act of fellowship and togetherness across every time and place. But the things we eat, how we eat them, when we eat them-- those differences are rich in national, regional, ethnic, family, and other associations.

In fact, it's hard to think of a food without associating it with some circumstance or other-- a holiday, a period in your life, a friend or a relative you tend to eat or drink it with, etc.

I also take pleasure in the creatureliness of eating and drinking, along with all other human needs. Although we are god-like in some ways, in other ways we are very limited beings with very specific limits. We need to sleep every night. We need shelter and clothing. And we need to eat and drink. It's humbling, in a sweet way, and a cause for solidarity. I like to think of my own frailty and the frailty of others, in this regard.

And now it's time for lunch.

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