The Politics of Food

[I’d hate to ruin a discussion about something as wonderful as food with very rude people, but this post may be triggery re: fat-shaming.]

Happy fall, everyone! I love this season! There’s something so magical about fall. The air is cool and crisp, leaves change colour and fall off, leaving skeletal trees behind, neither summer’s heat nor winter’s chill.

Oh, and of course, there’s the food.

The second Monday in October is Thanksgiving in Canada, and that means inviting a whole bunch of people over for turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes (with or without gravy) and more. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only times in the year when my mom thinks to buy cranberries, which makes it special for me. In my area, we also have Oktoberfest  which is a nice excuse to drink beer, eat sausage, and celebrate the fact that we were once not named after a guy who thought concentration camps were a fantastic idea.

Oh, and of course, there’s Hallowe’en, the only time of year when kids are encouraged to eat sweet things that are very bad for them.

I enjoy eating. There’s a certain pleasure in biting into an apple and feeling the juices drip down my chin. (Yes, sometimes I eat messily for the fun of it.) One thing I’m really sick of, though, is how there seem to be people who have made it their mission in life to make sure other people don’t enjoy their food.

I suspect you’ve all heard these before: X causes cancer, Y will rot your brain, stop eating Z, you’re slowly killing yourself. The latest punching bag in this war on food is wheat, no, not just highly processed, bleached wheat, wheat in general. That’s not even going into the fad diets, the weight loss pills, and the calorie-counting. One of my women’s studies professors told us about an overweight friend of hers who was eating an ice cream cone at the mall, only to have someone come along and say (and I swear this is true) “You should not be eating that….”

Yes, you can actually be that rude. I heard that anecdote years ago, and I can still hear her telling it. That kind of behaviour is fucking disgraceful. I could go on about fat-shaming, so I will. Here’s something that happened to me one day in the mall:

Me: *browsing games at GameStop*

Person A: Hmm, maybe I should get a Wii.

Person B: Yeah, that would be a good idea.

Person A: I really need to exercise more. I mean, I was never as big as that girl over there….

Yeah, um, lady? You might want to think twice about talking smack about the only girl in the store when she’s RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, just because she has her head down does not make her deaf.

I don’t like to demean other women like this, but I could have smacked that bitch, seriously. I didn’t say anything, though I did walk out of the store.

Anyways, I went off on a tangent there, so food….

It’s one thing to be concerned if something you might have bought is contaminated with E. coli, but this maddening “STOP EATING X OR YOU’RE MURDERING YOUR LIVER!” is just…just….

Fuck that noise, seriously.

Full disclaimer: I’m an overweight (or as I like to say, “fat”) middle class twenty-something living in Ontario, Canada. I try to exercise every day, and have been slowly modifying my diet to include more things in the fruit and vegetables department (things I like: spinach, lettuces, leafy greens in general, garlic and onion, most fruits excepting tomatoes unless they’re in something, things I hate: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages in general, almost everything else). I eat a lot of chicken and seafood (especially shellfish), pork and beef less so. I love dairy products, honey, and the occasional egg (depends on how they’re cooked). I’m allergic to peanuts, I’ll eat other nuts, but I don’t really like them. I enjoy all kinds of grain products. I love whole wheat pasta and pizza crust, but hate whole wheat bread. I drink more water now than ever, occasionally have a bit of fruit juice, and have soft drinks at parties or restaurants. I very rarely have tea (too bitter), don’t like coffee, and have never touched alcohol (except for that one family reunion when I was like, twelve, drank a big glass of rum and orange juice, got a killer headache, vowed never to do that again). I used to drink lots of sugar water juice from juice boxes, but I cut those out, same with ice cream (exceptions: Dairy Queen) which I kind of just….stopped enjoying.

I’m telling you all this so that you know exactly where I’m coming from, and because no discussion about food would be complete without taking about meat-eating and the not eating thereof.

This is a very contentious topic, so let’s get something straight, right now. If you have had to give up certain foods for health reasons, or you personally choose not to consume animal products (or just not to consume meat) for ethical reasons (or, say, your deities have told you “do not eat this thing”), I have no issue with you. Quite frankly, it’s none of my business what you choose to eat or not eat for whatever reason.

But what I really don’t like are those extremists who assume that I am a soulless monster because I’m an omnivore. Yes, PETA, I’m glaring in your general direction, you and your sexist marketing campaigns and your founder being all “but I need insulin shots (developed from animal testing) to save animals” bullshit hypocrisy. It’s not just PETA, though. While I wouldn’t label her an extremist, not by a long shot, Amber K. devotes a section of her book True Magick to basically saying that vegetarians make more powerful magicians. (Pgs. 103-6)

Did you hear that, my fellow omnivores? We all suck at magic! (Seriously though, I’d like to see someone with that mindset approach a deity of the hunt with a bowl of gazpacho, I predict it will go well.)

Now, as an omnivore myself, I do think that the problem is not that we eat meat, but that we eat too much meat and we treat the animals that give us our meat like shit. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford (or are able to) buy chickens who have been raised with tender loving care by local farmers. No, sorry, extremists, it’s not just an issue of “meat-eaters are all stupid and fat!” it’s also an ability issue, a class/socio-economic issue, as well as an issue of basic biology. This shit is waaaay more complicated than simply “why can’t everyone eat vegetables all the time?” And you know what? My body isn’t yours, stop fucking policing it like it is.

I could spend all day talking about matters of food. I mentioned this in a past post, but one of my fourth year religion courses was all about food and religion. OMFGs, this topic is so much more nuanced than “all Buddhists are vegetarians” (the Dalai Lama eats meat, now shut up). The professor who taught that course was planning to write a book on religion and food, but I don’t know if he ever got around to it. You know a course is awesome when it talks about Southern US barbeque culture as a means of binding together as a Christian community (I’m serious, I can find that article if anyone’s interested).

So, yeah, this topic is huuuuuge, so I think all I’m going to say for now is: Whatever you’re eating, enjoy it, enjoy the Hel out of it.

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