The Problem with Food

The problem as best I understand it is that we think too much of food and not enough of it. I purposely wrote, “and” not “or.” Because we do both. Simultaneously.

Pick your 80’s poison…

The Police


First, we have a tendency to exalt food to idol-like proportions. We think it is all-important. We fantasize about food. We talk about food. We write about it. We eat food. We are predictable creatures and we want a steady supply of food coming our way, and get frustrated when we don’t get it.

And it isn’t just that we want it consistently, but we want it like we like it. We want it healthy or not. With sauce or without. Lots of meat or none. Fresh veggies or none at all. Thick crust or thin. With fries or without. Well-done or rare. All of us have our particular tastes and our tastes are always right. Without exception. We obsess over food.

Today, when I picked up my son from school, he asked me the question that he asks me most days, “What are we having for dinner?” This was one of those rare times that I actually was able to tell him. “Pasta,” I say. Which elicits from him (and the younger siblings) a “YESSS!”

Honestly, that is his response most days, regardless of what I tell him. I’m not sure he is celebrating what we are eating as much as he is excited that we will be eating. Just like the day before. And the day before that. It is like a surprise every time. “Yes, food… again!”

Of course, his obsession with food is forgivable. Bless his growing-by-leaps-and-bounds adolescent body. He simply can’t get enough food in him to keep up with the rate at which his inferno-like metabolism is burning through the calories.

And yet, his obsession is also our obsession. But we don’t have the convenient excuse of adolescence to explain away our preoccupation with food.

However, I also said we don’t think enough of it. Neither what we are eating. Nor of the value of eating itself. This is going to get a bit complicated, but my own belief is that this has come as a result of a rise in a dualistic way of understanding the world. It is a view that drives a sharp division between that which is physical and that which is spiritual. To quote the all-knowing Sting, “we are spirits in a material world.” And in a world-view that has largely done away with the spiritual, then really it is Madonna who speaks on behalf of society, “You know we are living in a material world, and I’m a material girl.”

I realize that citing Sting and Madonna (in the same breath, no less) calls into question the validity of the entire post. However, when you take the materialists approach towards food, then it distorts its significance in both directions. Food is all important, but its only value is that it is fuel for the body. So really, it doesn’t matter what you eat, how you eat, when you eat, who you eat with, why you eat. All that is important is that you eat. Like I said, we both blow the importance of food out of proportion and cheapen it all at the same time.

By the way, if you doubt at all that this is in fact the majority opinion as it relates to food, you can see the same phenomenon as it relates to sex. Reduce sex to a purely physical thing, then you and I become first-hand witnesses to how societies both obsess over it and cheapen it… again, simultaneously. But that’s another series for another time.

So, let’s review…


We think it is too important.

And not important enough.

P.S. I think both Sting and Madonna are full of it. We are neither simply spirits in a material world, nor is the material world all that there is. Again, we’ll have to postpone my amazingly insightful comments on dualism as it is expressed in the media. Don’t lose too much sleep over it.

10 Replies to “The Problem with Food”

  1. thanks folks. not really sure where i’m going with it, but we’ll see. maybe i could get a couple guest submissions. any volunteers?

  2. I like what you are saying but… you don’t think food has a way of bringing people together for a bigger purpose? I can’t imagine creating an atmosphere where people are coming together for whatever reason and there not being some sort of food there. I feel like it is a bond that binds us all. That being said… I know I think way to much about food. Keep writing!

    1. Of course. We’ll get there i promise. I’ve got plenty to say about that, but there is no doubt that one of the main things to appreciate about food is its ability to foster community.

  3. Good intro post, Taido!

    So how about food in relation to:

    *Culture? I literally crave Asian food, especially Chinese food, if I haven’t had it for a week. Is my craving part mental as well as physical?

    *Health? Obsessing over food as it relates to having a healthy body and healthy mind. I sometimes question how many of the problems my poverty-stricken students have (ADHD, inability to focus, impulsiveness, lack of stamina) relate to their poor nutrition and lack of good food.

    I’ll look forward to more posts! =)

    1. Great questions.
      Not only mental and physical, but even spiritual. Race and ethnicity isn’t just some tack on to our humanity, but part of who we are in the image of God. As you well know, some of the deepest connections a person is with their “food of origin” for lack of a better term. You might be able to convert a person’s religious beliefs, but beliefs about and tastes in food – much more challenging. I think something so deeply embedded in who we are as a person has to necessarily have some connection to who we are as spiritual beings. Or maybe to say it slightly different. I don’t see how one can neatly divide the spiritual from the physical. We are whole people and as I hope to get to sometime soon… food is spiritual. Or maybe more accurately sacramental.
      Which also plays into the other question. It would be easy to say that there is nothing spiritual about nutrition. But again, we are whole people for whom the physical and spiritual are intertwined. In fact, I’m not sure even using labels to describe the two aren’t unhelpful by-products of the Enlightenment era. Anyway, yes, I think it begins to raise the issue of whether the foods we eat or don’t affect our whole being… including our “spirituality.”
      Getting deep around here. So I’ll try to wrap up.
      But one more comment, even eating dim sum with you guys a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t eaten dim sum like that in – well I don’t know how long. I think there was something more than simply nostalgia going on as we broke bread together around a specific meal that pointed toward so many significant memories and feelings around, not just our times around the table, but in shared life together.
      Ok, I’m starting to steal my blogging thunder so to speak. More anon.

  4. I can’t believe you all are being sucked in by a guy who literally runs away screaming like a small child at the sight of a perfectly grilled piece of meat. It’s like taking financial advise from a guy who only analyzes stocks that begin with the letters F through L. The food chain is the real deal my boy and is not to be messed with!! 🙂

Leave a Reply