Life Is More than Food

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.

Image from wisegeek.com
Image from wisegeek.com

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?

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30 thoughts on “Life Is More than Food

  1. This is great food for thought. Yep. I went there. Seriously, Jamie, this is a significant observation. Thanks for writing it.

    1. I was resisting the urge to make food puns all the way through this. 🙂 It’s all about balance. It’s like the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

  2. Excellent point! I completely agree. I was watching the Colbert Report last night and a woman was speaking about a book she wrote after she spent a year without looking in a mirror to regain control of a positive body image. I feel very strongly that we don’t need mirrors or scales or labels for that matter to lead happy, healthy lives. If we just choose the things that are healthy for us (physically, emotionally, mentally) everything will turn out all right. Obsessing over creating the healthiest dish in the world can be a detriment to other parts of life. This certainly made me think today, thanks for another great post =)

    1. That’s a great point. Thoughtful = good. Obsessive = bad. 🙂

      The Colbert gal makes me think of that Dove campaign where women described themselves and others to the sketch artist. They always spoke positively of the other women but negatively about themselves. I think it was called “True Beauty.”

  3. I remember the first time I ever made homemade bread, breaking out of my fear for any recipe that called for yeast (due to my thought that I was not skilled enough). I never would have gotten around to it if I had to be the Little Red Hen gathering everything!

    1. Very true. We’re always lamenting the “good old days” without thinking about the parts of them that weren’t so shiny or idyllic. People died young for a reason, and it was often due to the fact they had to scratch together everything to keep body and soul together. I say we take advantage of some of the blessings of modern technology!

  4. While I think its all very important …what you put into your body…so many folks are hyperfocussed its starting to make me batty…its fine to have special food needs and desires but shouldn’t your health focus on other things as well?

    1. I adore Lewis, particularly “Screwtape.” I don’t know if it’s opposition so much as it is grumpy old woman syndrome. I just always, if you’ll forgive the pun, evaluate anything that’s popular with a grain of salt. Thanks for the read and the comment!!

  5. I like making bread, but only when I want to and because I love it, not because of all the things I should be doing. All that’s great, but when people start telling me what I should do, my eyes start glazing over. I think you are right–do what you love for the reasons that make sense to you. It sounds like you have great reasons!

  6. Ah! So well written! I love your use of humor as you describe your reticence of the class. You are preaching to the choir sister!
    My mother made fabulous bread and I dearly loved it. I’ve made bread in my past and found it was way too time consuming for my lifestyle. Thank heavens I don’t have to make my own bread!
    I applaud your healthy choices. And I just love your header photo!

    1. Thank you on all counts! I love baking because, well, it’s delicious and full of warm fuzzies. I didn’t get any of those in this class. I mostly got the heebie jeebies.

      We have a ton more photos from the session under “symphony of two” if you’re interested. 🙂

    1. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that that is usually the best course. No sense wearing yourself out over nothing. The attitude makes me feel very, I dunno, British. 🙂

  7. It’s a delicate balance. I’m totally on board for eating and living as healthy as you are able. Kyle and I avoid as much processed food as we can, and I’d love to start baking our bread from scratch. However, I do all this because I enjoy it! Being in the kitchen is a joy and stress-reliever for me. I like learning about food and putting that knowledge to use in the food choices I make for our family. But it is not, and will never be, and life-controlling, all-consuming obsession. I don’t think I’m going to kill over from the occasional Oreo or Dorito. 🙂 We eat birthday cake at parties as well as whatever food we are served when we dine in the homes of family and friends. Balance and moderation. 🙂

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words!

      Hopefully, I can add it to my food-making repertoire before long. I’ve also want to master latticework pie crusts like my great grandmother did.

  8. I like Brussels sprouts, too. 🙂

    The last three years, hubby and I have planted a huge organic garden. And this year, because of the divorce, no garden. I miss being able to walk out into my yard and pick an eggplant, tomato, and zucchini to make homemade ratatouille, but I kind of don’t miss the hours of weeding. Next year, wherever I end up, I’ll do some serious square-foot garden in raised beds. Less time, less weeding, same good food. I hope…

    1. We did our first garden this year–peppers, tomatoes, and watermelon. Surprisingly, nothing has died….yet. I made some yummy homemade marinara with all the goodies, and it really is rewarding to know exactly what goes into your grub and that you helped “created it.” Raised garden beds are in our future next year as well because weeds are the pits!

      1. Oh boy, that too? Yeah, there’s a fine line and then there’s people who think everything should be talked about and out in the open. Never liked those people much. They are harmless enough, but dangit if they aren’t odd!

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