Why I Eat What I Do

I have devoted this month’s posts to food philosophy starting from the general and ending with the specific. Last week Linn Steward put in her nomination for an American food philosophy and its cultural icon. This week I reveal my personal food philosophy and icon. First my answers to questions posed by the first two posts in this series.

What is food to me? Food consists of edible fresh items and processed products. Beverages are liquid foods. Food ceases to be edible for me if I perceive it to be unsafe. It is a lifetime affliction that takes hold of students in food science during their first course in food microbiology. This affliction plagues partners of food scientists through their relationships.

How do I experience food? I experience food at home, most of which I prepare for me and my wife. I also experience food at restaurants, fast and slow. Sometimes I savor what I am eating. When eating alone I tend to shovel it in while reading a book.

What is good taste when is come to good food? As far as good “taste” in the sense of taste in music or art, I suspect mine is pedestrian. As far as how food tastes, I prefer the term flavor. In sensory science, flavor is the combination of taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, savory) and aroma. Food flavor is important to me. The appearance and texture of a food are also important. I have distinct likes and dislikes. My favorite foods include pizza, steak, salmon, eggs, baked potatoes, ice cream, dark chocolate, Ranier cherries, Brussels sprouts, diet soda, beer, and wine. Foods I dislike include Spam, canned salmon, fermented fish or vegetables, and spoiled foods. I am not very adventuresome when it comes to exotic dishes, I have never tried sushi and never will.

What are my ethical obligations when it comes to food? I am trying to cut back on meat, particularly beef, but it is very difficult. I feel a mission to help feed the poor as declared in the scriptures. I have been involved in food distribution to families who are food insecure at my church in Georgia and a local food pantry in Florida. I have relocated to South Carolina. When we get settled here, I plan to affiliate with some aid organization to help those who are food insecure or experiencing homelessness. I am also passionate about potable water and contribute funds to Lifewater International for expanding access around the world.

How do food and politics mix in my life? I am passionate about American history and American politics. I have read two biographies of each President and one of every Chief Justice. With respect to the politics of food, I favor improving income equality in the population and distributing food to families who need help. Such policies include funding of SNAP (food stamps). I also favor efforts by government and industry to drain food swamps by providing access to more fresh, whole foods.

Why does what I eat matter? What I eat affects my health. My diet seems to get more restrictive each year. I do not consume desserts with my meals and limit my sugar consumption. I avoid foods containing lactose, gluten, and polyols such as sorbitol. My physician and I watch my bloodwork closely to ensure that I am getting a balanced diet. I am still having difficulty with my HDL, which has been a little below the normal values. I have tried some of the alternative meat products. I like them, but my wife does not.

My personal food philosophy

  1. I avoid any foods I consider unsafe from sushi to artisan cheeses to home canned foods to dishes containing raw meats, and many other exotic dishes.
  2. I avoid foods that contain compounds like gluten, lactose, and sorbitol that cause me dietary discomfort.
  3. I limit my fat and sugar intake to keep my blood analysis within recommended values.
  4. Appearance, flavor, and texture all contribute to my enjoyment of food. I am an impact eater more than a savorer.
  5. I try to buy products and prepare meals that are earth friendly, but this goal is a work in progress.
  6. I feel an obligation to help food-insecure families through food distribution efforts like food pantries.
  7. Eating food with others is a social opportunity to interact with others and not a time to engage in divisive discussions.
  8. I consider processed, ultra-processed, and fast foods to be acceptable components of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation.
  9. Diets are part of every person’s inner code and not something to be demeaned.
picture of a vegan pizza
photo by Sara Yang

My icon: Gluten-free pizza

Coming soon: A third way to fight hunger in Africa

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