Monday, November 26, 2007

Our conflicted way of food

I've been wanting for some time to write about attitudes toward food in our American culture, but have been mulling over just where to begin and what to say.

Then this weekend I noticed that our seasonal confusion now extends to confusing times of feasting and times of fasting. Used to be we had lots of advertising and editorial copy in the various media about feasting until the New Year, when the ads and features about exercise and dieting began. Gradually this moved backward until one could see the diet and exercise pitches beginning on Boxing Day. This, more than anything, signalled that the Christmas season was dead except liturgically. Now it seems that the diet data comes right along with the recipes for butter cookies. The Saturday after Thanksgiving I turned on the tv a few minutes in advance of something I wanted to watch and stumbled upon a segment - on one of those shows that fills the gossip column niche - on how to take off the pounds gained on Thursday.

So I want to know - who gains multiple pounds in one day? Surely that is only possible for chronic dieters and the dehydrated? And who weighs themselves the day after a major feast? And I want to know why we must jettison the leftovers and get all puritanical right away?

Are we afraid of food? afraid of pleasure? afraid of losing control? Or we are just determined to make ourselves miserable and never enjoy anything?

Actually, I have been wondering if our life circumstances are so out of control, or seem to be, that one of the few places we feel we can exercise control is over our food choices. Is this a motivation for both the addiction to diets and the interest in fresh, seasonal and local food?

I want to think that the latter is somehow more positive than the former because it allows for seasonal celebration and choosing foods for taste, not just for caloric, carb or fat content.

But I'm still mulling.

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