I value healthy eating, but by the seventh mention of bowel movements, I totally checked out. I’d gone to a baking class to learn about something I considered complicated—making bread. But I got a lot more than that for my eight dollars. In addition to learning about all things yeasty, I was also treated to a dissertation on the evils of pre-packaged foods and forced to listen as the teacher waxed rhapsodic about the unfathomable joy that could be mine if I made everything from scratch. Like buy-grain-in-bulk-and-grind-your-own-flour-in-a-mill-from-scratch.
To quote Hall and Oates, “I can’t go for that. No can do.”
Don’t misread my reticence. I’m not one of those people who eschews anything to do with good nutrition. In fact, I avoid fast food as much as possible, drink plenty of water, and eat my veggies. (Seriously, I actually like Brussell sprouts.) But to spend nearly every waking moment of my life thinking about what I eat and how I should buy, store, and prepare it is beyond my ken. If you’ll forgive me the dead metaphor/bad grammar super combo, it might be some folks’ bread and butter, but it ain’t my cup of tea.
Hecks to the yes, I value wellness. As a person who’s lived with multiple sclerosis for nearly ten years, I know what it feels like when your body turns traitor and refuses to work the way it should. But expending such an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy in the name of good health makes me wonder if the term “quality of life” has as many shades of meaning as Kool-Aid has uses for Yellow No. 5. To me, a life spent checking labels and prepping food to squirrel away in Tupperware boxes doesn’t make me want to do the Cupid Shuffle or “go tell it on the mountain.” I love to eat delicious, wholesome meals, but if I have to make a choice between spending my life creating them or crafting poetry, the latter will win. Every single time.
In C.S. Lewis’ masterwork, The Screwtape Letters, the title character (who just happens to be a demon) advises his nephew to tempt a person with gluttony. He says, “We can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern” by “concentrating all our efforts on gluttony of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess.” In other words, Lewis says, the desire for a perfect slice of toast or ideal cup of tea can never be fulfilled, and in searching for it, a person’s stomach “dominates” his/her life to the detriment of everything else.
I still want to learn everything there is to know about baking bread—but not so I can fend off some invisible specter of illness or fear. I want to bake to help feed the hungry, to teach my future children the value of making something with your hands, and to welcome others to my table to fellowship. After all, what good is lifetime spent filling my stomach with good things only to wake up one day and discover my soul is empty and my heart starved?