Thursday, October 24, 2013

Put it all in your mouth!

I have inherited a few pet peeves. Just like with all thoughts and behaviors, I have the power to change these prejudices and I confess, I may be past this particular one at this point. Be that as it may, I still want to share one of my peeves with you for the purpose of today's topic. I do not appreciate picky eating.

I was raised by parents who expected that I should eat everything in front of me. It was made very clear to me as a child that there would be no food that I was allowed to turn my nose up at, especially without trying it first. I have a very vivid memory of being about 5 years old and gagging down steamed squash at the dinner table. I was crying and had been sitting there for what I remember as hours (though it probably was only a few minutes) protesting my parents unwavering demand that I should eat all of my squash before I could be excused. I ate it. I was alone at the table and almost swallowed them whole to get them down so I could go play.

I love squash now, by the way.

As kids growing up in our household, the expectation went even further than to simply try all your food, eat all your food, or clean your plate. All of those things applied, but my parents took it to another level. We were meant to do all of those things THEN kiss mom on the cheek and thank her for our meal. She worked full time and so did Dad and we still always had a home-cooked meal on the table. We understood very early that the food on our table was a gift that we would thank God for before each meal. Then we would thank Mom for taking the time to prepare it for us.

As a child, sometimes this was annoying. Now that I am grown, I want to slap my hands on the table and yell a resounding "THANK YOU!" to my parents for teaching me this incredible lesson in life.

It has only been in resent years that I have let go of the annoyance towards people who refused to try new foods or tell me the long list of very basic vegetables that they refuse to eat. I've stopped grimacing when I suggest eating at a Thai restaurant or trying Ethiopian food when I watch my companions eyes widen as a look of fear and disgust wrinkled into their foreheads as they resist my suggestions. Now, I don't try to change everyone around me into being open minded eaters but I still do pressure them to at least taste something new. Most people oblige me in that for which I am thankful.

Food is such a gift. In the States we have this amazing opportunity to not just eat three meals a day but to actually decide WHAT type of food we want to put in our bodies. We have the luxury of cravings, of eating out, of not finishing our leftovers and of course, of being picky.

When we are developing babies, we spend several months of our lives literally exploring the world with our mouths. We tasted everything! When do we stop doing that?

Being able to sit down at any table in any part of the world and partake of food with company is magical. It is such freedom to travel with a group of friends who excitedly dip their hands into a pot of porrage in Africa. It is awesome to go to a lunch meeting and devour suschi with a co-worker. It is so much fun to enjoy the presentation of the tofu bean bowl or the vegan lasagna that was just artfully laid in front of me. No matter what your moral decesions are around food, my call to arms today is that you just TRY new foods. Just taste them.

There are so many things that people choose to fear in this world and there are so many circumstances where fear based around eating is legitimate. However, in most cases, fear in the USA sitting over a giant helping of anything is probably a waste of time and life experience.

Food, to me, is a small adventure. The flavors melting together, the colors, the presentation, the cooking process... I love taking whatever we happen to have in the apartment and make something delicious from it. Tonight, I created the most wonderful meal of potatoes, onions, Thai curry paste, Indian curry powder, sweet chili sauce, milk, eggs and garlic all added to corn tortillas and sprinkled with flax seed. I already know half of you just visibly cringed.

As my Papa used to declare, I am here to say that my meal tonight was "DAMN good!"

This is just the point. God has created us with senses that truly allow us to experience this world to its absolute fullest. How in the world would we dampen that experience by refusing to eat certain foods or fearing new dishes? Why would anyone take a gift like this ability to explore AND enjoy our sense of taste and bind it (and essentially yourself) with fear.

Food is necessary. Food is flavorful. Food is art. Food is an adventure. I hope you don't miss it. Put it all in your mouth and just discover what this world tastes like. You just might like it.