Food is weird here in North America

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Or, more accurately, our relationship to food is weird.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, since at least early 2012, when I returned to Canada. As a culture, or at least as the dominant culture, our relationship to food is, in my opinion, really out of whack. It’s not just the dieting, eating disorders and obession with weight that I find so bizarre. (I found that stuff weird before I went overseas, too). It’s the entire fetishization of food that makes me very uncomfortable. I can’t put my finger on the feeling; it’s complicated and difficult to articulate.

Perhaps it’s because food is a necessity of life, and without it we die, and this fetishization elevates food to a commodity to be prized and lusted after. This is wrong: is our culture’s nadir going to be marked by haves who revel in the access to food unattainable by have-nots?

Perhaps it’s because I have lived in places where I have regularly eaten better than my neighbours, or my colleagues, and the residual guilt rises to the top like so much fat in Thanksgiving gravy when I think of all the juicy, yummy things we have to eat–and yet still manage to leave the table dissatisfied.

I merely know that I had to stifle a snort when one of my dinner companions said that a dessert at Sweet Cherubim on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive looked great, but that, being devoutly vegan, he couldn’t order it because it contained honey.  The  honey red flag had been faithfully signposted next to the dessert to warn vegans of its threat to their practice. I found his declaration to be the most decadant statement anyone could possibly make. Above all, I found it utterly absurd.

When did food become a status symbol, a beacon of your moral code, a method with which to compare yourself with, and surpass, the Joneses?


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