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America is in trouble because its [sic] perpetuated this idea of “enjoying food” and food that make(s) you “feel good”. People need to understand that food is fuel. Its not there to entertain you.
-a commenter on Go Kaleo’s Facebook Page

To which I say, well then what is the friggin’ point, man?  If you take that approach to life, you are really going to to lead a dull, boring life, aren’t you?

Is food fuel?  Yes, of course it is.  Should we eating whatever we want, whenever we want?  Absolutely not.  But why the heck would you NOT want to enjoy your food when you do have it?  For Lord’s sake, taste is one of our five major senses, and arguably the most intimate.  I wonder if the people who preach the “Food is only fuel” mantra feel the same way about sex?  It’s only for procreation!  or music? sound is only for communication! or the smell of a rose? smell is only for warning us of danger!

As a person of Japanese decent, I have been exposed to food in a very different way – a meal is not just fuel;  a meal is something that pleases as many senses as possible – from the subtle flavors (emphasis on subtle), to the simple visual presentation, to the smells and sounds (say from a sizzling dish) and of course texture of the dish.  A meal is to be enjoyed by all five senses, not just downed in an attempt to fuel the body.

But most importantly, a meal is something you take time to enjoy.  Eat it slowly, take your time, let your senses revel in the process of consuming.

Whether you are a believer in God or a higher power or, like me, the Universe, we were given a gift when we emerged from the primordial ooze – the ability to sense and enjoy what we sensed.  Beauty comes in all kinds of forms – there is beauty in touch, in sight, in sound, in scent and in taste.  Why would we obsessively deny ourselves the ability to experience the beauty that is all around us.

Food, or more importantly a meal, invites us to do just that.

Does our American society have a problem with food?  There’s no arguing that.  Everything is super-sized, extemely salted, heavily sugared and overly processed; the foods that much of the Nation consumes are addictive, calorically dense and nutritionally empty.  But Americans aren’t addicted to the enjoyment of food…they are addicted to the food choices they have made – there is a difference.

Does that mean we need to stop enjoying our food?  I don’t think so.  Maybe we need to take a clue from my ancestors and take a moment to slow down, observe, inhale, listen, touch and taste.

m&t_zilia_0003_4and remember the Okinawan phrase: Hara hachi bu.

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