After a family funeral in the mid-90’s, my extended family gathered at my aunt’s home and hovered around a table laden with sandwiches and cakes. I was picking and choosing through the offerings when my uncle, noticing there were no sweets on my plate (he also knew I had Type 1), asked whether I wanted a slice of cake? I declined. He pointed to my aunt Marie, his wife, and while making a gesture like injecting his stomach with a needle, said, “Why don’t you do what Marie does? Just shoot up a little extra?” My aunt, already overweight and having trouble walking, smiled and nodded. She eventually died of complications of Type 2 diabetes. Shooting up a little extra didn’t help her much. And I wonder, did any of those brief moments of pleasure on the tongue really make life “sweeter” or more enjoyable? The side-effects of diabetes are certainly not enjoyable.
I’m not condemning my aunt. I’ve given myself a little extra in order to eat sweets too, but why do we care so goddamn much about food? Why do we feel eating sweets is some kind of right? Why is it, when we’re sad, mad, glad, we feel we deserve a little something? Why do we telescope the pleasures and pain of life down to a bowl of ice cream (name your obsession)–and as portion sizes have increased, it’s rarely a “little something” more often it’s a super-sized something.
The irony is, at this point in time, more time and energy is spent on the preparation, taste etc. of foods-witness the plethora of cooking shows, cookbooks, cooking gurus etc. and the avalanche of cooking gadgets that go with this obsession–when in reality, we hardly know how to truly enjoy eating, tasting, touching, and smelling what we put in our mouths, namely the food that sustains our bodies. People salivate no matter whether they’re in the MacDonald’s check out line, or sitting down at the finest restaurant, because the smells trigger hunger, desire etc., but most can’t savor simply eating an apple–they can’t eat it (or anything) slowly and really taste that apple (the fact that much of what we find in our supermarkets lacks taste or nutrition is another post, but for the purposes of this post imagine food that does taste good.)
Few people truly connect to what they eat, or understand what it means to nourish body and soul. Most of us are, however, very connected to the desire and craving for food and those desires and cravings deserve attention. We heal when we bring gentle, loving attention to our desires, when we walk straight into them and say, “I’m here. I want to understand the desires and cravings that visit me everyday, sometimes every hour and minute.” When we finally commit to doing that, we’ll find sweetness in every single moment of every day.