So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.—Franz Kafka
There are times when reading my email can be a dangerous thing. Consider, for example, the promotional piece for a local restaurant offering all-you-can-eat fried catfish today for only $5.09. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. All-you-can-eat for under ten bucks. I am really tempted to go, and there’s still yet the chance that I may. The challenge is I have to walk. Both directions. Three miles each way.
In some aspects, that long of a walk is a good thing. I can use the exercise anyway and the temperatures today are supposed to be warmer so the weather isn’t the hindrance it has been. Walking there builds up a decent appetite and if I’m going to spend five bucks on food I want to get my money’s worth. Walking back helps, at least in part, make up for the fact that I would almost certainly eat more than I should because that’s what tends to happen when one is told the meal is all-you-can-eat.
The problem with that long of a walk is that once I leave the restaurant there are no restrooms available between here and there. Walking after a meal does a wonderful job of aiding in digestion, but when one has overeaten, and especially when what one overate was fried, the need for a restroom is likely to arrive rather quickly. Walking that distance takes me about an hour. There is almost no scenario in which the last 30 minutes of that walk isn’t painful. I’ve done things like this before. Disaster has been oh so narrowly averted on more than one such occasion. Do I really dare take that risk today?
We all know that the food we eat is important. There are plenty of people who want to know every little detail about their food: where it was sourced, how it was grown, what it was fed, whether it had a good life and was happy when it was harvested. There are millions of people who have medical reasons to watch what they consume. The young woman on the right in the pictures above is either allergic or sensitive a large number of the most common foods. Her food requirements are so narrow that she’s had to create her own set of recipes so she can still enjoy eating without getting ill. Her website, bubblechild.com, is a fantastic resource for anyone who deals with a myriad of sometimes conflicting food allergies. I read through her articles and often feel rather ashamed of myself for not eating better.
I’m not alone, though. Americans have been the fattest people on the planet for some time now, and our relationship with food extends beyond a mere matter of sustenance; it affects who we are, how we relate to other people, and how well we do our jobs. There is a recent article in the New York Times wherein Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger talks about how he invites job applicants to breakfast and has the restaurant intentionally mess up their order. He tells reporter Adam Bryant:
“I do that because I want to see how the person responds.That will help me understand how they deal with adversity. Are they upset, are they frustrated or are they understanding? Life is like that, and business is like that. It’s just another way to get a look inside their heart rather than their head.”
Bettinger doesn’t say whether he counts the applicant’s cholesterol or sugar intake at that meal, but he has a point. What we want to eat can affect our temperament and getting an order wrong isn’t the worst thing that can happen in a restaurant.
I can remember occasionally going to restaurants with my parents when I was small. Back then, few, if any, items on the menu were prepared in advance. One reason we seldom ate out was because there would inevitably be a twenty- to thirty-minute wait between the time we placed our order and food actually arrived. Salads were encouraged not because they were healthy (they weren’t by the time we ladled several ounces of dressing on them), but because they gave us something to do while waiting on our entrees. If salads weren’t available, my parents were challenged with trying to keep two young boys occupied. We were forbidden from ordering anything that might extend our wait, such as fried chicken. The fact that the food was not going to be fast forced us to think carefully not only about what we wanted to eat, but where we sat, how we dressed, and whether we invited guests.
Food is serious. When I’m planning our menus here at home I have to take into consideration matters such as the amount of fruit the kids have had that day, are they getting enough vegetables, are the textures so challenging that they override the taste? If I get it wrong, we not only have cranky little people on our hands, but I’m also impacting their future relationship with that particular food. They’re both at an age where their opinions of food now affect their dietary choices for most their adolescence. For the moment, they love steamed veggies, but if I don’t prepare those carefully they’ll stop eating them and won’t try them again for several years. Remember, I have three that are grown. We’ve been through this before.
Taking time to think about our food before we eat brings us closer to making healthier choices. After all this, will I still have the catfish? Maybe, but if I do I am less likely to go full-tilt on the all-you-can-eat and will adjust my other meals to compensate for any errors in judgement I may make. Not giving in to the fast food convenience allows all of us to enjoy our food more, to make meals more of an experience rather than an automatic habit. We may not always make the most healthy choices, but we are less likely to make really horrible ones.
You know, I could use the exercise. Maybe I’ll just have the veggie tray instead.