…If You Can Call This Living

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[The exciting conclusion of last week’s Eating to Live post.]

After a week of eating undelicious foods, I can sum it up in one word. I can, but I’m not going to*. Here, have a thousand words instead (there are also four pictures, so make that five thousand words):

We were very surprised to discover how much joy we truly get out of food, and that the joy isn’t even mainly from eating food. We enjoy planning out our menu each week and buying the food. We enjoy making the food. Cooking a delicious meal for others is one of life’s greatest pleasures, perhaps as good as eating the food, and we both felt unsatisfied making food for the other that we knew wouldn’t be enjoyable. Emma runs the Around the World in 196 Recipes blog, which has us trying all kinds of interesting and (usually) delicious foods from around the world, and of course we do the Saturday Sandwich here at Family Against the Flow. Anticipating the delicious food we’ll be eating later in the day brings us pleasure, and at the end of the day we can always look back on the day and think about the wonderful food we’ve eaten. This past week, we’ve had none of the joy in this paragraph at all.

Breakfast. Every day for the rest of your life.

We usually have homemade muesli for breakfast each morning, and we’ve had oatmeal plenty of times with honey and such, and so we figured that oatmeal would be alright, probably one of the easier things. The taste and texture of plain oatmeal was really shocking to us, and eating that for breakfast every day was one of the most difficult parts of this experiment. For Emma it was bitter, and for both of us it was hard to eat. For me, oatmeal was nutty – but not like a nut. Not nearly like anything so delicious as a nut; even a single unsalted peanut would have had more flavor.

Not as bad as breakfast. But then, nothing could be.

Plain grains in general just aren’t good. They’re all very bland. Vegetables, on the other hand, even the plainest ones we could think of, like leeks, are comparatively an explosion of flavor. Our favorite meal was one of rice, beans, and glorious leeks. I feel like poor countries have a rich heritage of seasoning food for precisely that reason. If you can’t often afford meat or dairy products, you can still likely afford (or grow your own) herbs and spices and make the food you do have, like grains, incredibly delicious. That’s my theory for why countries that are poor or have historically been so (e.g. China, India, Mexico) have such wonderfully spiced and seasoned food. Being relatively wealthier and able to afford a big hunk of ham, you don’t have to use your imagination.

Pigeons frolicking on our bread.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was to make a peanut butter sandwich for one of my kids. Normally, I’d give myself a scoop of the peanut butter first. After I was finished, I’d lick the knife clean. Then probably get another scoop. It took nearly more will power than I had just not to eat any of that peanut butter. Another day, we made pizza toast for them, and it was a struggle not to eat any of the cheese as I sprinkled it on, and to not lick the spoon after I spread the tomato puree. It was tough sometimes to make delicious food for them knowing I wouldn’t be having any of it myself. Still, giving joy to someone else was still capable of giving me joy. We even shared some of the bread we weren’t allowed to have with these pigeons, and they seemed to experience plenty of joy.

World-class picnic.

Because we weren’t getting the usual joy from meals, we tried different things. For breakfast, we sat in the dining room where it’s sunny, and talked as we ate and for a while afterwards. We felt very lucky to have a sunny dining room, and that’s something we’re going to continue doing. We also ate outside several times, such as the above picture where we’re in the park eating lentils and split peas.

Our digestion doesn’t seem to have been any different even though theoretically we’re getting tons of fibre, since we’re having brown rice, beans, bulgar wheat, quinoa, etc.

We still felt hungry just as often (about every 3 hours) and ate food just as often, although not quite as much food as normal. The food we ate also didn’t give the feeling of satisfaction that we’d normally have. You would feel full, but somehow strangely empty, and definitely unsatisfied.

Somewhere near you are two people with only one pizza for each of them. Please, send help.

We intended to go six days eating this way, but after five days we’d learned our lesson well enough. On day six, we had sugar in our oatmeal, salt and pepper in our rice, and then got pizza for dinner.

I feel very grateful that this was a temporary and self-imposed hardship, that we’re not so poor that we can’t afford delicious foods, and that we’re able to get so much joy out of something as simple as food. My heart goes out to anyone on a diet who is denying themselves the joy of delicious foods, or anyone without the money to afford it.

*Alright then, that word is ‘terrible.’

[Crossposted at A Family Against the Flow.]

Let me know your thoughts!