Do You Eat To Live or Do You Live To Eat?  

An analysis of ourselves as eaters
Photo credits: ‘Cake Happening’ by Kreemart and American Patrons of the Tate at Haunch of Venison, New York, Nov. 3, 2009
January 4, 2024

Life is a precious gift but can sometimes feel impossible. Leonard Cohen once said “There are cracks in everything, and that’s how the light gets in.” For me, apart from tenderness, grace and great company, those beams of light come in the form of great food. Eating truly well and healthy has the capacity to transform our lives. I am thoroughly convinced that anyone with access to fantastic food has access to a vastly superior version of themselves. Food really matters, especially since food is a matter we have to be concerned with every day, throughout the day, since we were born til death do us fast.

As we age, our sight and our hearing begin to lose their edge, our muscles weaken and diminish, and even our most gallant of glands—the heart, the lungs, the brain—eventually surrender. But not our palate. No, our palate endures in glory to the very end. Who, with a meal of Quenelles de Brochelle, a Tarte Flambee, who with Tomates Farcies, a Perfect Gruyere Soufflé and an Almond Frangipane Tart, and who with a gorgeous dish of frog legs sautéed with garlic and parsley and a sweet gorgonzola custard inside of their stomach would not be better off, happier and more open to greet the finer, more virtuous things in life?

When I (as I would imagine anyone) was young, I loved (or hated) food fiercely. I would eat with an intense but also delicate zeal. I remember not being able to bear sharing more than a crumb of anything I loved. And even a crumb would’ve been too much. Food was central and centric, whether shared with family and friends or alone.

Once we are in our late teens and twenties—when we are at our life’s peak of energy—we seem to care and expect less of our food. We are more inclined to give our most electric and vital version of our mind and body things like Starbucks’ synthetic coffee, faster (fake) food, and heavily syruped cocktails.

Should not snobbism for eating be more than necessary? We all have to nourish our bodies and minds by means of food, several times daily. We have to plan and prepare, and make choices, whether we eat at home or out. It’s become such second nature to think and plan our food, but we may not realize the extent of time this one crucial basic life need, act and process takes up in our lives. Just imagine the time taken to contemplate, choose, prepare, chew, and digest our food. And let’s not forget—when it is the case—the time it takes to then heal digestion gone bad. Food really matters. Oh yes.

But eating is when the full and rich flavors, textures and aromas of keenly-felt life are felt. And like making love, it’s where our most sensuous memories lie. It’s also one of the most dignified habits we are capable of. Eating treated as an art gives us the opportunity to assert and re-assert our dignity in the face of life’s fears, pains and hardships. Through our growing know-how, delicacy, and real enjoyment of food—through an ever-evolving Gastronautical love—we can come to perceive and understand hundreds of other things. But mostly about ourselves. And then, Fellow Gastronauts, no fate can be too painful, to draw us in.

So here I am, at mid-life. And with one clear conclusion: that I for a fact have been addicted to eating (as a form of art) for nearly half a century and that I see absolutely no sign of breaking this irresistible habit. My palette gets only more and more assertive and commanding, and my passion more electric and vital as I move forward with each passing year. I dare to wonder what food passions slash obsessions I’ll have when I’m planning, preparing, chewing and luxuriating in food at 99.
Anyone else share my addiction?

Speaking of obsessions, who can relate to a secret food obsession, as in something we passionately and furtively eat or perhaps prepare meticulously, which we may make light of in conversation and laugh along but which we actually take quite seriously in private? Mine change thanks to my shamelessly capricious palate. And on that note…

“He who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.”
-18th century English writer Samuel Johnson


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