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Is Food Fuel or Art?

I think the most interesting part of this whole food discussion is whether you consider food to be fuel or art.  People who call themselves foodies obviously fall on one side of the line: they appreciate the taste of food and view the preparation of it as an art form.  One person likened picky eaters to people who only look at one painter’s work; you can’t understand the scope of printmaking if you’re only looking at Warhol.


The other side of it is people who view food as fuel, and then it doesn’t matter if you’re willing to try new things just so long as you are getting balanced nutrition.  Just as a car doesn’t need to test out every fuel at the gas station, some people simply know which foods help their body run well, they give their body those foods, and they move on to focusing on things that matter to them.

I am definitely not a foodie, and I’ve never had a desire to try certain things.  I know people who will travel to go to specific restaurants, whereas I travel and then pick a restaurant that works best with my self-limitations.  Or I travel with food: I often bring food with me on trips because I see it as fuel, something necessary to sustain life, and I’m not traveling to try out the foods.

Before you suck in your breath and tell me how I’m missing out on experiencing the culture, tell me this: do you learn the language of the country you’re visiting before you go?  See, I do.  We all experience other cultures in the way that is important to us.  For me, it’s words, so I delve into the new culture by learning the language as best I can before I go.  For you, it may be food, and you seek to eat the same way as the locals.  I just want to point out that there is more than one way to see the world.  And my way involves traveling with a jar of peanut butter but seeing really cool things that aren’t in the tour book because I’ve always talked with the locals.

So, back to art or fuel — the place where I stray from the obvious way I treat food is that I see chefs as artists.  I am lumping bakers and cooks and sous-chefs and the like all under the category of chef — I see people who work in food preparation as artists, especially when they are bringing their own creativity to the dish.  I am easily impressed when I go to someone’s house and see how they prepared food, and I’ve taken cooking classes before (most notably, I have a cake decorating degree… even though I don’t like cake either).  I like to make up my own recipes, though I don’t always want to eat what I make.  I like the act of preparing food, but I see that as separate from the act of consuming it.  Which isn’t to say that I don’t like food: I do.  I like what I like.

So which is food for you: fuel or art?


1 Elizabeth { 04.11.12 at 9:17 am }

My mom always said, eat to please yourself, dress to please others. The idea being that nobody else has to taste what you’re tasting, but other people do have to look at you! (This is also coming from a cultural context where expressing your individuality through clothing and standing out from the crowd are not considered particularly important or admirable.)

2 Kate { 04.11.12 at 9:35 am }

My husband is slowly getting me to eat more foods as he learns to cook really well. I joke I ‘waited him out’ because after 10 years of me not really cooking he took the ball and ran. I am the food for fuel type but have tried other culture foods when I’m there because on business you just have to, but, I travel stocked with powerbars. The upside to food is fuel is that I can divorce myself from something ‘yucky’ looking or a bit burned or whatever and usually be ok. I also agree that baking and decorating is cool and artistic and I enjoy it but I just don’t really like to eat what I make. So glad I’m not alone in the world!

3 tara { 04.11.12 at 10:22 am }

I’m about as far from your view on this as you can get. I had a friend in graduate school who said that everyone spent money on something and you had to know what it was that was your thing. For her it was the phone- she had enormous, mind boggling phone bills- which I didn’t get. But I thought was a great insight. So while I don’t get your food views- I’m sure there’s something else that winds you up the way that food does for me.
For me, food is really, really important- how it was raised, how it was prepared, how it served, etc. I read and write and teach on Food. I enjoy traveling so much less now that my kids are too small to enjoy eating out. I’d rather sleep in my car than forgo a new eating experience (ok not really- but close). One thing I haven’t heard much about on your posts is the idea of hospitality, which I think is linked strongly to food. It’s why I’m trying to teach my kids to not be picky. It’s part of why I’m no longer a vegetarian- while I regularly cook a number of vegetarian or vegan meals. To reject my food is to reject my hospitality (or me). It’s something that I get wound up about. Anyway, I wonder what you think about the hospitality thing.

4 Lollipopgoldstein { 04.11.12 at 10:29 am }


Oh — that’s really interesting. I definitely think it’s a sign of hospitality to cook for someone; if someone is coming to my house, they are getting homemade bread and a full meal. I’ll forgo sleep to cook something special at every meal. I just held seder two nights in a row and made 9 dishes the first night and 5 the second. I cook a lot to show I care.


I don’t think it’s inhospitable for someone to reject my food. I always ask people for food allergies before they eat over as well as likes/dislikes. And then I usually keep notes so when they come the next time, I don’t inadvertently make something they don’t like. But I wouldn’t be offended if I cooked something and they said they didn’t want to eat it. I’d just ask what they would like to eat, and then make that if I could. I rarely have someone come over where I didn’t throw out what I was making ahead of time so they could accept/reject it before cooking.

5 ANDMom { 04.11.12 at 10:51 am }

I think there is something very … human about eating for pleasure.

I’ll admit, I’m having a hard time digesting these posts because through my son I have an entirely different perspective on food than most. He *can’t* eat for fuel, he can *only* eat for art/pleasure. So it’s almost … offensive for people to be like “I’d die before I’d eat X”, because for them it’s hyperbole and for us it’s reality – he WOULD die before he’d eat it because he, for reasons we don’t understand, can’t. And it’s one thing to be picky as a choice, and another to be picky by force. (I am, actually, both those things.)

Food is an integral part of who we are as people, as a society. It’s been a struggle and an eye-opener to raise him and SEE how prevalent food is in our culture, in ways we are probably barely aware of. because it’s so much just THERE.

But for him – he “eats” through a feeding tube for fuel. His fuel is carefully chosen and made. He thrives from it, but derives no pleasure from the act of “eating”. It is merely something he does/we do to him to stay alive – the ultimate in “food is fuel”. But he EATS for pleasure. He samples and tastes and savors. He eats for experience, for love, for belonging. We don’t force, or even ask, him to eat. He does it because there is some instinct that’s separate from hunger that draws us to food.

I used to be a “food for fuel” person for the most part. Sometimes I enjoyed eating something, but mostly .. I ate because I had to eat. But through him I’ve been able to see how much deeper our relationships with food go, and that really probably most people who say they are “food for fuel” people would find that if it boiled down to it, they’d rather eat for pleasure than never eat at all.

6 a { 04.11.12 at 10:51 am }

Sometimes it’s fuel. Sometimes it’s art. Sometimes it’s supposed to be pretty. It’s always supposed to taste good. I think there are different levels – I can make food that tastes good, but I can’t arrange it prettily on a plate.

You don’t like cake or pie? You are killing me!!!!

I do think it’s inhospitable for someone to reject my food because I do try to make things that others will like. I will try to accommodate your likes and dislikes, and if I make the effort, I will be hurt if you just look at it and say “No thanks.” If I don’t make an effort, I won’t be offended, though.

7 tash { 04.11.12 at 10:52 am }

I disagree; food to me is both fuel and art. Our motto is that you only have so many meals in life, so don’t waste them.

8 Tigger { 04.11.12 at 11:00 am }

I eat because I have to. Because my body demands that it have food in order to operate at any level. I rarely enjoy eating meals, although snacking on things like pretzels is good. I do LOVE pretzels!

I have been repeatedly accused of eating “bland” food. It’s also been suggested a few times that I’m close to being a super taster. I don’t season my food very often, beyond a little salt on occasion. I don’t eat things that are spicy (for several reasons). There are a lot of things I won’t try. Food has to be the right color – for example, if you gave me purple carrots, I’d have a hard time making myself eat them. That Kool-aid that is clear, but tastes like watermelon or some such? Drives me batty. And textures – oh lord, textures. There can be something that tastes good, or looks like it would taste good, but the texture is just bad and I can’t do it. Things that crunch (that shouldn’t) – my parents used to put “finely chopped” onions in meatloaf, and every time I’d bite on one, I’d gag. And for the love of all holy things, please do not mix my foods! There is only one food I like mixed, the rest had better not be.

My husband is not the same. He’ll mix pretty much anything (and it makes me gag). He’ll eat pretty much anything as well, with only a few exceptions. He’s not a foodie, he doesn’t view it as “art”, but he’s not picky either. It’s hard for him to be married to someone like me, I think. But he DID know what he was getting in to!

Unfotunately, our son seems to have inherited my eating preferences. I am hoping it’s just a toddler thing, but he’s been like this since we introduced solids. We’re struggling with “right fluid, wrong container” issues right now, and texture issues.

9 loribeth { 04.11.12 at 11:01 am }

I would certainly not describe myself as a “foodie.” Sometimes I just can’t watch some of the Food Network shows — I think they get carried away & make things more complicated than they really need to be.

But we do need to eat. There are some foods I like or dislike more than others, obviously, and sometimes you don’t have time or the ingredients to get too much beyond the very basic — I have some dishes/food court outlets that are my “go-to” choices when I can’t make a decision or am running out of options. But by & large, I think food & eating should be an enjoyable experience.

10 Mina { 04.11.12 at 11:56 am }

I am definitely in the food-art category. I love almost all food (there must be something I don’t like, I just can’t remember it right now) and I love cooking and making it both tasty and good looking. I love experimenting with spices, new foods and combinations, herbs, yadayada. My husband is also a foodie and an exceptional cook and spending time cooking is a treat for us.
You should not understand that we only eat gourmet every day. Sometimes food is just fuel and chocolate always had a special place for me.
I think everyone has their own relationship with food and unless it fails to provide the necessary nutrients or leads to an unhealthy status, it is nobody’s business how it carries on, right?

11 KH99 { 04.11.12 at 12:25 pm }

While my view of food is sometimes as fuel, I lean toward the art side mostly. I’m no foodie and I don’t have a decorative bone in my body, but I like to cook and I like to eat good things. I’ve always liked to cook, and we are starting to make more and more things from scratch like our pasta sauce and hope to plant a garden this summer. In our family, we may save money in other ways, but we never skimp on food. I hope to pass along a respect for good ingredients to my son, and I’ve started baking with him to help him understand how food is prepared. We seldom go out to eat (take out is another story entirely), but if we do, we want it to be enjoyable and worth the time and money. I was frustrated by my MIL recently because we were picking a location for Easter brunch and she rejected our suggestion, which we consider to be one of the best restaurants in the area. We never have a bad or even mediocre meal there. She wouldn’t give a reason why but selected another place and then proceeded to complain about the food the entire time.

This reply is going to be very disjointed. I love to entertain, and I love cooking for friends and family. The act of making a delicious meal for them is one way I show my love and regard for them.

12 Ana { 04.11.12 at 12:33 pm }

Sorry I have to completely disagree with your analogy here (picky eater=food-as-fuel). I think that people who truly view food as fuel are the UNpickiest, LEAST discriminatory eaters there are. They will literally eat whatever is cheapest/most convenient to keep their body going and meet that basic need. Its us picky ones that will hunt around, pay more, and even go hungry if nothing meets our requirements. I get that a car doesn’t need to try all the types of gas out there, but would it REFUSE perfectly good gas and end up stranded on the side of the road because said gas wasn’t on the list of “5 types of gas I will accept”?
I also disagree that you have to be an adventurous eater to see food as art/pleasure. I consider myself moderately picky, yet still LOVE & enjoy food/cooking/dining out….I just judiciously avoid the things I do not want to eat.
I’m starting to think that “pickiness” is more psychological than anything else…there are some things I just simply cannot FATHOM putting in my mouth that are perfectly normal, healthy, convenient options. It is certainly not REASONABLE to choose starvation over eating a banana, but I would seriously consider it.

13 Tiara { 04.11.12 at 12:47 pm }

I wouldn’t say food is Art for me at all but I think it’s more than fuel…so even tho I’m a picky eater, I LOVE the food I love…I’m a comfort eater (unfortunately for my waistline).

14 mrs spock { 04.11.12 at 1:03 pm }

Mr S and I are foodies. I agree with Julia Child that food is a pleasure.

I don’t get excited by Rothko paintings like a friend from high school does – and who works at a contemporary art museum. It’s all- who cares!- to me.

But the mister and I get VERY excited about trying new restaurants, especially ones who pull in locally sourced seasonal foods and make something special out of them. When we dream about vacations, it is all about the food. We are regulars at a local restaurant called The Meadowlark. They all know the Spocks. The chef/owner will come out and say hello sometimes. The waitstaff all knows us and gives great service. It’s nice to have a place to go, unwind, and revel in amazing food.

But that’s what gives us goosebumps. Different strokes for different folks. Some of our friends go camping every weekend. Some are trying to go to a baseball game in every stadium in the country. Some travel to every country they can.

We just like enjoying good food, good atmosphere, and maybe trying to copy those same feats at home.

15 JustHeather { 04.11.12 at 1:19 pm }

I’m a bit of everything when it comes to food. I love food! I love baking and (sometimes) cooking and I really love to play with my food too. I’m sometimes adventurous and other times I’d rather stick to what I know and love.

As for hospitality, I try to make things that I know people will like, but if they don’t like it, I’d hope they would at least try it and if not, it’s their loss and more for me. *grin* I’ll gladly give my share of foods I don’t like so others who do like it can eat more. Haha

16 mijk { 04.11.12 at 1:43 pm }

I am in the food = love camp and I sort of pictured you there too.I therefor have some difficulty with picky eaters. They reject my loving 😉 (entirely my issue of course)

17 Erica { 04.11.12 at 1:53 pm }

For so many of us it will never be just fuel. We have smells and tastes (good & bad) seared into our memories. This cake is Dad’s favorite. These are the special treats we made when camping. These mushrooms are the same as the ones Grandpa used to saute for us while Grandma watched him edgily, this big and brash man invading her kitchen. This smell reminds me of the church lutefisk dinners we attended every year growing up. This was our favorite harvest dinner, back when the whole family pitched in during the summers. This seared tuna brings me back to my first sophisticated dinner in a big city. Not to mention, Grandma’s lefsa (to be served warm, with brown sugar and butter), Great-grandma’s krumkaka iron, the traditional holiday dinner menu. Do these kinds of things make food art? Maybe. If art can include whittling and homemade furniture and sidewalk chalk and finger-paintings as well as museum pieces (and I think it can). But it’s fuel, too.

18 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.11.12 at 2:05 pm }

To me, fuel. To my husband, both.

I’ve eaten your Smith Island Cake and seen your phrecipes. You have a touch of the foodie in you, too.

Or does “foodie” refer only a food consumer? I just realized I don’t really know what the scope of this word is!

19 Kelly { 04.11.12 at 2:55 pm }

LOL, that was me who said that! And I think that Warhol is a much better analogy, as Kincaid isn’t really an artist at all. Plus although I DO think Warhol can be a little flavorless or more often, one-note, he is much healthier for you than the master of light (TM).

The art analogy isn’t perfect, but I think I can stretch it still farther to explain why I will fight picky-eater tendancies in my kid tooth and nail, and also prefer my friends to be non-picky eaters too when possible.

You mention visiting another country with your trusty jar of peanut butter and I DID suck in my breath a bit. (BTW, I also learn as much of the native language as I possibly can before travelling as well!) I mean, snacks to keep your blood sugar up are one thing. Food sometimes is JUST fuel, even to me. Not all food is art. But the idea of that being a planned main source of food when travelling again sounds sad to me, although you are clearly not sad at all!

But with my kid, or IRL friends…Ok look at it this way. Say you are in Paris travelling so you want to go to the Louvre. You love art and can’t wait. You take (older, teen) Wolvog and Chickienob with you and are excited to be in that amazing place WITH them. It’s not that you wouldn’t enjoy it if you went alone, but you do expect your enjoyment to be enhanced significantly by their company. So imagine everytime you stand in front of any painting and start enjoying looking at it, and want to discuss it with your companions, but each time you do, Wovog and Chickienob are on their iPhones looking at something way less AMAZING on the internet instead. Neither will engage with you, even try to look at the paintings/statues and think about them or experience them, and because of this even if they are making otherwise normal conversation, neither can enter into any sort of dialogue with you about any of the art, period. Maybe you ask them, hey, can you just TRY to look at it and tell me what you think? And they politely refuse and keep reading Salon or whatever. Now, in theory this does not have to affect YOUR enjoyment of the art at all. You could look as much as you like and even just be happy for whatever conversation you ARE having with them. But in reality, you are not sharing an experience. In fact, you’d probably assume they were bored and would maybe even not enjoy yourself on a more general level because even though YOU like art, you’ve now dragged people along with you who clearly don’t and won’t even try, and you keep thinking, well, maybe we should all just leave and go do something all of us would enjoy at least a LITTLE bit, even though (let’s say) visiting the museum was one of the biggest highlights you had been looking forward to. Clearly your companions are not into it, and when you ARE, it can just be super frustrating. Then with kids at least, come the thoughts of, here is something I value HIGHLY, and my kid shows absolutely zero interest. How do I feel about that?

Mix in with kids the idea that picky eating CAN lead to malnutrition, deficiencies, or even eating disorders and it in my mind become even more important, and more VITAL than art appreciation. With friends, it starts touching on questions of common interests, and also that annoying high maintenance stuff I talked about in my earlier comment (with SOME picky eaters, not all). Because people eat roughly 3 times a day, and that’s three times a day a person who really craves attention has to control other’s actions, choices, and get attention for special needs, so yeah. Honestly, there are a lot of picky eaters I’ve met who I see their behavior around food as a symptom of other personality traits I don’t like.

Finally, the trying new things aspect: I wonder if you realize that even non-picky eaters like me often don’t like something much, especially if it has strong flavors, the first time? A lot of strong flavors and some of the weirder prep techniques really are an Acquired taste for most people. So what’s the point of trying things multiple times when you didn’t like it the first time? Well, some of my very FAVORITE wonderful, make me so happy I could SING foods I didn’t like so much the first time I had them. Now they enrich my life! It WAS worth it. And with kids, forget about it. I’ve noticed with toddlers that they have whims that change faster than the weather and pretty much don’t like most anything until they’ve had it 5-10 times. But you get over than hump, and they will beg for that same food.

So yeah, for me food = fuel always, and as much as I can get in my life, art too. I try to maximize the amount that gets into that duel category for me and going forward, for my kid too. But more than that, what is so special about food is that it is LIFE. A meal can be fellowship, celebration, company, exquisite and transitory art, fuel, and life. And when someone isn’t enjoying it with you, they may be fine with that but as social creatures it does impact those around you, whether it’s because they can’t take you to eat where they’d like to go, or because you can’t engage with them in the ritual of sharing new and different tastes, or because meals need to be cut short so the picky eater isn’t forced to just hang around forever watching others eat. Not saying you need to change, just trying to explain where I’m coming from and why I will disagree up and down that it is acceptable (for my family) for my kid to be a picky eater.

20 Chickenpig { 04.11.12 at 4:06 pm }

It is BOTH of course 🙂 But it is also history. I have spent an incredible amount of time studying about food, including how it is grown or raised, within an historical context, and preparing food that is socially and historically accurate. That doesn’t mean that the food tasted particularly good, or looked really pretty. But food means something, and it tells us something, about who we are as people, where we came from, and where we are going. But after spending all day thinking about and preparing a meal that only a few people would eat, and then having to clean up after it, I just wanted to grab some fuel and stuff it in my face.

I have found that food always looks and tastes better if someone is preparing it for you. And that haggis is an acquired taste 😉

21 HereWeGoAJen { 04.11.12 at 4:09 pm }

I think I fall in between. I really, really love food. But I like what I like and I am not a particularly adventurous eater. If it is something I don’t like, I eat enough to not be hungry and I am done. If it is something I like, I can (and do) out-eat my six foot ten inches husband, who is literally more than twice my size. I don’t look like someone who can eat a tremendous amount of food, but I can. But only if I want it. And if it is something I do not like (seafood), I just don’t eat anything. I really do love food though. But on that list you posted, there wasn’t much that I do love.

22 Ann Z { 04.11.12 at 6:07 pm }

I could have written Mrs Spock’s comment word for word except that we don’t live in the same city, so you’d have to change the restaurant name. Food is a pleasure for me, oh yes it is.

I don’t think of food as art, though. I’m not sure where the difference is, maybe it’s because I’m not really an art person. I do think there’s artistry in the work of many chefs. But food for me is just simply a pleasure, more like a really good book or website (but then I’m a librarian, not a museum curator, so maybe that’s why the analogy doesn’t work for me). Actually, I kind of like the analogy to books. Some people simply use books and websites as a means to get information, and that is totally ok. But some of us seek out books and sites for so much more. And there are genres that I don’t like, and don’t even bother reading, some of them I’ve never really read, I just don’t think I’d like them, and I think that’s ok, too.

23 Mali { 04.11.12 at 6:37 pm }

Well, I kind of wish I ate for fuel. I kind of wish I didn’t like cake. My body would thank me for it. But I do like food, and I eat for pleasure. (Too much sometimes, but that’s my problem). I think food is one of life’s great pleasures, and can’t imagine being indifferent to it. I accept that people are. But I’m not.

One of the great joys of travelling (for me) is trying new foods. (And like you I almost always learn some of the language of my destination – my most recent attempts were at Turkish! – because languages are my thing too. It meant that when in Vienna for Christmas with my sister-in-law, between her Dutch and my self-taught German, we were able to buy dinner at the local deli, and find all the ingredients for our Christmas dinner at the supermarket – we got the last frozen goose!). Languages help me eat well when I travel!

I don’t think I am wildly adventurous, but compared to many I guess I am. We’ll try street food most places, and risk the consequences. I won’t try everything by any means, but I will say that things I’ve tried simply to be polite to hosts have ended up being delicious. If I hadn’t tried to be polite, I would never have had that pleasure. Mind you, that plate of stir-fried beetles in Philippines was a bit too much for me, and my host laughed at my squeamishness! She thought I was picky – and I won’t tell you what else I forced myself to try to make up for my rudeness! Because there is no getting past it. Many people and cultures think that if you don’t try their food, it is rude and they are offended. For me, the way I was raised and iin the cultures I lived in, accepting gifts (including meals) is gracious, and more about pleasing and thanking the host than whether I want or like the food or not.

That said, when I am the host I always endeavour to accommodate food preferences, religious or dietary restrictions. Over the years I’ve hosted a lot of Muslims, and we find halal restaurants, and ensure food and cultural restrictions are met. And so if you ever visit NZ, I will endeavour to make you delicious, vegetarian dishes that meet your requirements and still show off our local cuisine. Or when in doubt, simply pour you lots of wine!

So yes I’m a bit of a foodie – in that I love good food. I once booked a restaurant in Paris – by fax – about two months in advance simply to ensure we got a table. When we travel, I’ll often research restaurants and book in advance. And yes, we’ve been known to organise trips here in NZ or Australia around specific restaurants for special occasions. Years later, I can remember major wedding anniversaries because of the amazing meals.

24 Sara { 04.11.12 at 8:16 pm }

Wow! It’s kind of amazing how strongly some people feel about what other people eat! I don’t get that at all. Obviously this is a touchy area for me, since a couple of comments above really rubbed me the wrong way.

I love cooking for people, but would never dream of being offended if I cooked something that the person didn’t like. Why is it their job to adjust their tastes to what I cooked, rather than being my job as a good hostess to figure out what that they like (which is usually easy enough to do just by asking) or to prepare an array of options so that there is something for everyone? That just doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a community with enough vegetarians/kosher Jews/muslims/people with allergies that the fact that different people have different needs is something that strikes me as normal and unremarkable.

As for me, I love trying new foods, and really rejoice in food, yet I have strong likes, dislikes, and a few genuine aversions, so what does that make me? I think of myself as a bit of a foodie, in that I am very interested in food and trying new things, and that I spend a lot of time thinking about food and talking about food and planning what to eat and cooking, BUT… I also won’t try something that I really don’t want to eat. I was a very picky child, and still have some very strong food aversions, despite liking a broad variety of foods. I agree with Ana (above) that your picky eater = food for fuel argument really doesn’t work for me at all.

It really bothers me when I hear people say that they feel offended when other people won’t eat what they cook, or that they think that their child being picky is unacceptable. I wonder how they’d like to spend a day in my body, with my sensory system, or that of any other person who is truly sensitive to tastes, smells, or textures, and then have that conversation again. I have on several occasions actually vomited simply from flavors or smells. Not out of allergies, but just because my body feels SO strongly about not ingesting certain things that it reacts that way when forced to do so. I find eating some foods so physically disagreeable that I would rather risk offending my host (whose position strikes me as unreasonable if being willing to put a specific substance in my body is a prerequisite for friendship) than eat them. Other foods are just meh. I’ve eaten plenty of things that I don’t particularly like to be polite, but there is a difference between the things that I don’t particularly enjoy, and the things that I just can’t bear to eat. I think that when people who aren’t picky criticize those who are, they may just be failing to appreciate that they are clearly operating with a totally different sensory apparatus, and that their energy might be better spent being grateful for what they have, rather than criticizing other people for not having the same thing.

25 battynurse { 04.12.12 at 1:30 am }

Fuel and occasional obsession. Or compulsion. Best friend and some other not so great things. yeah, my relationship with food is a bit messed up.

26 St. Elsewhere { 04.12.12 at 3:59 am }

Both really. And keep in mind that I am not an enthusiastic cook.

If I were cooking for just myself, I would make something that is minimum time consuming and satisfies my appetite. But there are other times too when I use food as fuel.

But I like to relish my food. I like to enjoy it. The presentation does not matter to me very much. I am excited to eat street food wherever I can, try the local cuisine, just go to different hangouts, and they don’t have to be very elite at all.

My only constraint with sampling food is that I am not very comfortable using certain tools, such as chopsticks (zero skills with it). So, I would rather be at an informal do where I can eat what I want…

I don’t live to eat, but if I have to eat to live, I might as well enjoy it!

27 St. Elsewhere { 04.12.12 at 4:00 am }

I want to be back and read the comments on this post…they are amazing!

28 Lisa { 04.12.12 at 4:26 pm }

You learn the language of every country you visit? Either you haven’t traveled much, or you’re talking about learning the words for “hello,” “goodbye,” and “hell no, I won’t eat that.”

If you’re saying you actually *learn the language*, color me skeptical.

29 Justine { 04.12.12 at 9:33 pm }

I’m with Chickenpig. Food is both fuel and art, but also memory. And memory-making. Food for me is also an expression of my values, and how I try to protect the earth to the best of my ability. It’s complicated.

I love to cook for people, and I always try to accommodate dietary restrictions (or picky eaters) when I have enough advance warning, because I like to be able to sit down at a table to share a meal. Breaking bread together is sort of a sacred act for me. Maybe it’s all of those years I spent as a Catholic, growing up … 🙂

30 Bea { 04.18.12 at 10:15 am }

I definitely fall on the foodie side. Mr Bea says I’m picky, which may seem strange since I’ll eat just about anything, but I do like to have the right thing (or eating experience – sometimes the dish itself is of lesser importance) at the right time. It’s not just the taste, sometimes it’s the adventure or the history or the cultural connection or whatever. But food definitely means something to me over and above fuel (which I agree is probably true for most, but to varying degrees).

I mostly replied to take up the food/hospitality debate. I think this is one of those two-way street things, and I guess appreciation of hospitality is another of food’s meanings to me. We eat to participate in relationships – and like everything in relationships, that involves a certain amount of give and take.

If I’m the host, I’ll definitely try to cook to suit my guests. I will ask them ahead of time what they do and don’t eat. I take great pride in designing a menu that can be eaten by all present – from those following Halal down one end of the table to the raw food vegans down the other (actually, the same dish usually suits both – I’m not vegan but if you throw dinner parties you should definitely look into that style of cooking). I don’t do special dishes. I don’t do special dishes. I meant to write that twice. We will all eat together – it is completely possible to put together a menu to suit all dietary requirements at once, and we should apply that philosophy to life more generally.

But I digress. When the guest really can’t eat what’s on the table (I’m not talking a try of everything – when I host, I don’t expect everyone to try every dish, I aim for everyone to be adequately fed, even if they mostly resort to bread and butter, although I try not to put anyone in that position, either) there’s a protocol to follow. It goes without saying (she says) that you shouldn’t complain. But further to that, I’m pretty sure everyone would decline in a certain manner: “*I’m so sorry*, it’s just that I can’t/don’t eat X. I mean, *it looks delicious/like you’ve gone to a lot of trouble/really done a good job of it*. I should have told you beforehand. Apologies again.” We say these sorts of things because we realise that when we decline someone’s hospitality, it (generally speaking) does take the wind out of their sails and you do need to make up for it in some way in order to maintain a proper balance in the relationship.

If I was the host and someone went with the above type script, I would say, “Oh, it’s not a problem at all. Let me see what I have in the fridge. Really, don’t even think about it.” If someone just said, “Oh, I don’t eat that, I’ve brought my own peanut butter,” I would think, “Hmph. Okay. Well. Stuff you too, then.” And if someone was so overly picky that they would only eat a certain type of imported rye bread which was grown organically, made by blind, amputee cats who had been rescued from lives of abuse, and only available at a price of $26/slice from a certain distributor on the outskirts of the next town over who only opens twice a week, both times on a Wednesday, and you have to know the secret password and handshake to be a customer, well, at some point I would say, look, don’t bother coming around. Even if you bring your own damned bread.

And to be honest, it wouldn’t even really be about the bread at that point. It would be about me coming to think of them as too hard to please, and completely uninterested in entering my world or accepting the way I live my life.

So yeah. We can err on one side or the other. Someone said above that eating is something that mostly affects the individual eating, and to that end I don’t push too hard on the you-will-eat-what-your-host-has-provided front – especially if you’re keeping up your end of the relationship in other ways. But to say there’s absolutely no obligation on the part of the guest to make even a token effort – perhaps a bit of bread and butter or a tiny serve of salad or if push really, really comes to shove then at least a profuse apology and a *verbal* show of appreciation – well, I can’t agree with that at all.


31 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 04.18.12 at 11:04 pm }

Usually fuel, but occasionally art. We have a couple of foodie friends and it’s really fun to go out with one of them to have what one would describe as “beautiful” food and the other as “elite” food. And if I’m in northern Italy food is absolutely art. And I once had the best meal of my life by one of the world’s best chefs, at one of his restaurants where there was a vegetarian tasting menu (unlike most super-fancy restaurants who ignore vegetarians or give them side dishes or something), and oh my goodness I can still taste some of those dishes. THAT was art.

32 Jessie { 04.20.12 at 1:13 am }

Food is art for me, but I can appreciate and enjoy all levels of it. It doesn’t have to be museum-quality art to be worth it, I like children’s finger paintings (or ramen noodles) too.

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