I have always loved food. I’m what you might consider a “foodie”, which by Merriam-Webster's definition is a person who has an avid interest in the latest food fads. I actually had to look that up. Wikipedia defines a foodie as a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger. The terms "gastronome" and "epicure" define the same thing, i.e. a person who enjoys food for pleasure. That’s me.
I enjoy layers of texture and complementary flavors on the front and back end of the bite. I love the break of the bite itself. I love the colors in a dish and unique pairings that surprise and awe when they come together in the mouth.
And when I take inventory of the people in my life, I find many of them to be foodies, as well. Not all. But most. My parents are not big eaters. They fall under the “Eat to Live” category. But my husband, though not a foodie by birth, has grown into being somewhat of a food connoisseur as his tastes have changed over time, presumably, due to living with me all these years.
Two of my closest friends enjoy food in the way that I do. When making plans together, the first question is always, “Where are we going to eat?!” One of my girlfriends can be heard making unusual noises when she’s taken that first bite of something that’s met or exceeded her expectations; there is audible moaning and her eyes sort of roll back in her head. And people start to stare. It’s sort of like the restaurant scene, you know which one, from Harry Met Sally. I enjoy sharing a dining experience with people that have a similar (or heightened!) appreciation for food. It’s a little like church.
Trying new foods and restaurants has always been priority when making our travel plans and visiting new places. Eating my way through a city is one of my favorite pastimes. Take New York City, for example. You could pick a theme, “NYC’s Best Pizza and Beer”, start in the Upper East Side, work your way through Manhattan’s most notable pizza places and pubs only to end up having dessert in Brooklyn. Then you could write a blog post about it.
So. As I’ve been catching up with all my foodie friends and relatives this week after having been in New Orleans, they’ve all asked, “How was the food?”
My reply, “Eh.”
Now let me be clear that New Orleans has the most incredible restaurants and food, famous to be sure. Words that come to mind: seafood, spicy, sausage. So, if you’re not into that sort of thing, than New Orleans cuisine may not be for you. As I was telling you last week, they are known for their rich signature dishes of Gumbo, Jambalaya, Andouille, Crawfish Étoufféé, Shrimp Creole, Muffuletta, Oysters Rockefeller and their famous Beignets. When I first visited five years ago, still eating seafood and hadn’t yet cut out the oils, the food was phenomenal! I remember being so excited to seek out the places that served the best of the best and took it on as my personal mission to do just that.
But something has changed for me over the past couple of years. And it’s not just the fact that I no longer eat seafood. New Orleans, and many places where I enjoy spending time, offers plenty of vegan or vegetarian versions of their famous food. I think that since I’ve cut out oils from my diet (and I’ve admitted I’m not perfect at this), my taste buds have changed...healed, really. The food is just too rich for me. I’m now preferring simpler meals. The real shocker is that I don’t really enjoy eating out as much as I used to. Of course, I do every now and again, but I prefer my own cooking as eating out is losing it’s appeal.
Admittedly, I’ve always wanted to be more of an “Eat to Live” person, like my parents, or to at least know what that was like. To stop halfway through a meal because I’m satisfied and simply can’t bother with finishing the rest...sort of bored with the food after it’s done its job. Or to pack PB & J sandwiches and a few apples for the road rather than to scope out and plan a day trip around stopping at a certain restaurant that’s known for their signature sandwiches piled high with coleslaw and French fries or even the tofu poboy that all the vegan foodies are raving about on PETA's website.
The thing is, I’m making the shift. I think my favorite restaurant fare in New Orleans was the clapped together dinner I ordered from the sides menu at the restaurant with no vegetarian offerings: plain baked potato, side salad, grilled asparagus and balsamic vinegar. It was delicious, simple, satiating and it was a fraction of the price of what my family was ordering, to boot.
Bottom Line: Once I became informed and stopped eating all the extra fat, sugar and salt many restaurants and food companies add to their foods to keep us coming back for more, I began to taste the food for what it really is. I had the most delicious orange yesterday. And, because I think I’ve broken my food addictions, I didn’t need to turn it into a fruit parfait to enjoy.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I guess to share with all my fellow foodies out there who think it might be a lost cause to lose that strong hold food has over us, who believe we are hard-wired to plan our whole day around what we are eating and where we are eating it, and for those of us who can't manage to spend time with others without having the meal taking center stage...I’m here to tell you things can and do change.
Are you an Eat to Live or Live to Eat kind of person? In the spirit of transparency, I'll admit I am straddling both sides of the fence here. I LOVE food. I love to eat. But my focus has shifted from the food to the person I’m spending precious time with, to the sights and sounds of what's going on around me and to enjoy food in a nutritious and healthy way. And breaking some of my food addictions has enabled me to at least climb that proverbial fence to enjoy life... with or without the food.
If you’re interested in learning more about why it's so difficult for us to make the right choices when it comes to our food, and if you want to find out EXACTLY what you can do to make this shift yourself, check out this brilliant 17 minute Ted talk from Douglas Lisle, Director of Research for True North Health Center and co-author of the thought provoking book, The Pleasure Trap.
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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