Eating has become a political act. Food has turned into a religion. When I’m in the supermarket today, I have the feeling people’s judgmental attention creeps in on my articles. Close friends and family radically change their eating habits, talk about just that, and leave me wondering. All over the internet you can find discussions, sometimes violent ones, on what we should or should not eat. Society is dividing into food camps. Yet I wish to stay neutral.
For a while now, I have been wanting to push the judges and preachers back. For a while, I have been wanting to remind everybody that eating is for nourishment. I did not. Why? The topic is sensitive, people will be offended. And more importantly, there are so many facades to this discussion that, knowing myself, I will diffuse the readers’ overview. Yet here I stand, surrendering to my desire, ready to enter the arena of a fight that is lost for anyone who takes part in it.
Let’s start with Foie Gras. It’s made by force feeding geese, murdering them then ripping their livers out and serving it on a plate. Seen the videos of the poor industrial fellas? Imagine a tube in the back of your throat filling up your stomach with huge quantities of food, untill you get sick and your liver swells up to enormous size. Then, try Foie Gras for yourself. It’s one of those things that graciously melts over your tongue, having you believe the angels themselves have brought it to you on a silk pillow. It’s a deeply rooted aspect of French culture, therefore unlikely to be banned in Europe for the coming decades. Should we hate the French?
Wait a minute, there are more sides to it. In some cases geese may actually get used to this type of feeding. Before the winter migration, for example, it’s quite natural for them to eat far more than usual. The force feeding, if not industrial, may happen in more respectful ways than known by activists. Then again, who came up with this information? Those who earn from it perhaps? Or are we forgetting to show true empathy for the animals we so forcefully protect? Are we projecting our discomfort on them?
But let’s shift this discussion to plants. Take broccoli. Naturally, it won’t grow as a single stem with flowers. It grows that way because we bind its branches together, giving them far less space than they would have. We suffocate them. Not sad? Asparagus is a shoot. It is put under a thick layer of soil. All it does during its lifetime, is to search for light. When, after a few weeks of growth, it finally reaches the surface, on the moment it can truly start expanding, it is taken out and eaten up. Totally ok? Do you know what you eat if you eat a strawberry? Plant babies. No problem? Every nut you ever ate could have become a tree, yet nobody advocates for nuts’ rights. Or bananas’. We believe that vegetables don’t have feelings, thus we can do with them what we want. Yet the attitude behind it is no different from that enabling us to eat Foie Gras. We use nature in the way that benefits us.
I’m skipping the topic of the ecological impact for now (that could take a few pages), but would like to briefly discuss the other sudden western obsession: health. Fifteen years ago, if I would eat a slice of bread with cheese, that would be a healthy act. If I do that today, I practically poison myself. What started with the amount of sugar cubes in my soda, has escalated into some raw supervegamania. I personally find it hard to digest. Let’s not forget that us westerners have never in known history become older than we become now. There must be at least a little bit of influence of our feeding habits there, am I wrong?
I have always considered myself a healthy and environmentally friendly person. Nothing changed (in fact I’m probably doing more effort now than when I was younger), yet recently food evangelists frame my eating habits as criminal to myself and the environment. As long as they don’t live of light alone, I don’t take those words for granted. Humans alter things. What matters is not the fact that we do that, but the way we do that. The respect we have for the beings we interact with makes a world of difference.
As I said, I cannot win this debate, nor do I wish to. No one can. We are in the luxurious position that we can afford to enter it. Lucky that we can choose what we eat. Please, let’s keep discussing our differences, but let’s not stick to arguments that justify telling each other that what we do is wrong. No human will alter the fact that to survive, we need to eat, and eating is a deadly act. As we’re here, we may as well enjoy that.