The following blog post is a personal challenge for me inspired by the following quote: ‘‘I love to cook so much . . . food represents to me something truly positive, fun and liberated, and sensual and loving . . . it feels to me like being in control, not in the . . .bad and neutralizing sense, but in the sense that I do not let external forces control me and tell me that I cannot eat.’’ In the spirit of this quote, I want to tell you what I love about food, and why I view eating as a radical feminist act.
Food is comforting. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but when you get home from a long day, all you want is something warm to put in your mouth. The sensation of chewing something with a good texture, of letting the flavors sink into your tongue, of feeling yourself heat up from the inside, is reaffirming: I am here. I am alive. I deserve this good thing. I can feel myself regaining strength when I eat food. I can feel my mood brightening. Food gives me life. It affirms to me that I should be in this world, not in a far-off intellectual space with no body. When I eat I feel solid.
And food. Food tastes AMAZING. A piece of really good chocolate, fruit, or ice cream? I could eat them all day, letting them melt on my tongue and sink into my consciousness, sweetening up my day. Or the deep, delicious savoriness of a pizza, which you can’t quite replicate anywhere else. Or simply the taste of MEAT. I’m sorry, but as a recovering anorexic, I cannot explain to you how perfect a hamburger is. And salt. Salt and vinegar potato chips, hash browns, FRIED FOOD. These things are delicious. I love the experience of eating them, of tasting them, of gobbling them down. And textures are stellar too. I had some pasta last week that was the perfect kind of chewy, and I just wanted to keep eating it forever so that I could have that texture in my mouth indefinitely. It makes my teeth almost hurt just thinking about it. Or ice cream on a sore throat. Food makes you feel good.
Food can completely change your experience of a day or a temperature. A hot drink on a cold day leaves you shivering as you feel the warmth reach out into your belly. Cold ice cream on a hot day makes everything suddenly ok. Food can define experiences.
Food is a mental game. You wait for it. You get excited while you cook. You see it and smell it before you can taste it and taste it before it’s really yours and in your belly. You can savor every little bit of it. You can build it up and appreciate the excitement of it all day. Cooking is an art and baking is a science and you can create and play and explore the world around you by changing it into something it wasn’t a few hours ago. It’s fairly amazing, and it reminds you how powerful we are. We can change our world in order to make it taste better. It’s a powerful form of creating culture by changing the natural materials we’re given. It makes us more human.
Food is an experience that is hard to replicate. Each meal is the coalescence of a place and people and culture and history, all come together to create what is now. Your food means different things at different times and in different places. It comes together through your culture, mediated by cultural symbols. Your food represents where you are coming from, but by definition it is where you are going because it is the sheer fuel that allows you to go there. Food is time, because what else is growth and maturation and ripeness and cooking and every other process by which our food becomes appropriate for us to eat? Food is all these connections. Perhaps the most beautiful of them is the community. Sitting down to a good meal with a pile of friends is one of the best experiences in life. Everything becomes a bit warmer, everyone a bit more vivacious, more talkative. We move closer to share, to ask about each other’s food. Sharing food is a sign of trust, of care, of closeness.
And food tells us what we deserve. It is something we take for ourselves, something we should never question whether we deserve or not because it is the most basic thing that everyone deserves. It tells us that we have the right to take up physical space, to interact with things and people, to speak, to be in space. Food is our right to a body, and tells us we have the right to exist in the same space as others.
Perhaps my favorite part of food is the memories that it creates. Whenever I want to imagine my childhood and the things that made me happy about it, I imagine eating spaghetti. When I think of my current relationship, I see it in the story of meals that we’ve eaten together. Certain people I remember in the scent of food. Certain foods can reduce me to tears or laughter with their memories. I love how human food is for this reason. I love remembering.
I love food for these reasons. It is hard for me to say that I love food, but I love the experiences of food. Food is not something you’re supposed to love. You’re supposed to eat it for sustenance and health, but not for your soul. Well I call bullshit on that. Food is intimate: it is one of so very few things we put into our bodies, and we are certainly discriminatory about our sexual partners: why shouldn’t we give the same care and attention to our food? I love my food because it represents so much of the beauty of being human, so many of the deeper experiences, because there is so much to question, explore, and learn about how we come to have the food that we do.
I tell myself this over and over because women who love food are Bad. They are out of control. They are self-centered. I tell myself this because I have made myself an imperative. Taking care of myself against the messages that I have gotten that others are more important, that work is more important, that accomplishing is more important, that I can rest when I’m dead, that my happiness is secondary to what I create and accomplish has become my revolution. I am my oppressed minority, and eating is our protests, eating is our bombs, eating is our artwork and songs and stories and essays. “Eating is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of radical “ Audre Lorde. This quote is our mantra. Every beautiful thing I recognize about food as I put it in my mouth is another blow to every message that says “be less”. When men tell women that they exist as objects, I choose to eat something and TAKE ANOTHER BEING into myself. Objectify that. When people call me crazy and say that psychos are just making it all up, I eat my dinner and reflect again on how impossible that was a year ago and know I am stronger than anyone who has never thought twice about their dinner.
My very existence as someone who is mentally ill and female is a struggle to claim as my own. My food is the last symbol that I can choose what to do with my life and my body. When I stop choosing purposively to eat, how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat, I give up the most basic level of control and self-assertion I have. Food is my revolution when I allow myself to take up space, when I refuse to give up on my potential, when I connect myself to my family, to my memories, to my stories, when I write my own narratives, when I deeply experience the world. Food makes me more human. It forces me to recognize my humanity, on par with anyone else’s, no better and no worse. I don’t believe in God, but I believe in the power of food to connect people to each other. I believe in how fantastic food is.