Greetings, my beloved worldwide web. Today we are going to broach the subject of food and eating, because this is a subject all doctors, fake or not, love to weigh in on.
Food and Eating, which I am going to merge into a new word, “feating” (kinda like feting, but with some defeat in it), is, as you know, a complicated, moneymaking, WWF-type fray. In one corner we have every English major in the country living in Brooklyn lovingly making artisanal sausages while they stroke their collective beard. On the other side we have, like, 90 percent of the country or whatever the stat is, obesedly chugging their now-outlawed liters of sugary drinks.
Friends, it does not take a fake MD to see that we need to find some middle ground here.
So let’s break it down. We already know why we need to eat. Let’s turn to some other nice, journalistic pronouns, like the when, where, and how of eating.
Oh, no, I hear you say. I have been down this road already. I know about Family Dinner. The New York Times—which recently ran that piece about how we are all going to hell giving our kids foods in pouches—recently ran another piece on the fact that family dinners—(which, in case you’re been too busy sucking on pouches to remember, are these things where you and your kids are supposed to sit down at the table set with fancy water glasses and lovingly-made food and talk about Meaningful Things)—are not as important as the celebrity wives who wrote books on the subject once thought.
Frankly, I was relieved to hear this, because I was never a fan of family dinner in the first place. When I think about having to sit at the table over my plate of handmade sausage broaching the subject of how, say, teenage boys these days really need get the HPV vaccine, I want to hide under the bed with a candy bar and a flashlight and a classic tome like Garfield Takes the Cake.
And this is the moment where I want to ask you to stop for a second, worldwide web, because I want to point out that in the same way that you stand and contemplate the shiny glass ball on the Christmas tree, and see that it is beautiful and glowing and reflects your distorted image, this is the same way these seemingly conflicting aspects of food-itude (another new word, yes!! how many can I make in one column?) are in fact, one. Yes, the giant-sized sugary drink-guzzlers; the small-batch sausage-makers; and the self- righteous, family-dinner havers, are not, in fact, in opposing corners, about to battle, they are all on a grassy field together, having a picnic: they are one and the same.
And I am about to lay down a nice, big, checkered-blanket proposal for all of us, which is that we all just stop fussing about what we eat. Just stop it, America. The next big thing in eating, I am telling you, is going to be this: Who cares?
That’s right. I have a new slogan, and I am getting my intern Josh to crank-call the White House right now so I can get Michelle Obama on the phone to tell her about it, because it is nicely timed for the reelection campaign, and it is this: “Reating is FUNdamental.”
You are right, “Reating” is a new word, and it is a family-sized combo of two words: reading and eating. Because what I am proposing is that we embrace something that we as a nation are, I bet, pretty much doing at least once a day already, and that is reading while we eat, um, I don’t really know or care what. Some food.
You know how on some mornings, or maybe after you come home from work/school, you go and get a bowl and a spoon and a box of cereal, and then you fix the cereal, which may mean putting milk on it or not, and then you sit down and find anything at all you have nearby to read, even if it is the cereal box itself, and then you sit and eat and read in a carbo/dairy/cereal-literature trance?
This is “Reating,” and I think we need to embrace it as a particularly American form of eating, and say that it is ours, and we made it, and we are masters of it, and it is good.
For starters, it takes the focus off the food, which we can see is a topic that we have already gone overboard on. But imagine this conversation between, say, two 12 year olds:
“Hey, whatcha reating?”
“Some cereal and this poem I found on the side of the box.”
“It’s called ‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death.’ Ever heard of it?”
“It’s by this lady named Emily Dickinson. Let me read it to you.”
See how brilliant that is, worldwide web? We do two things at once here! We eat our food, which is fine, and nice, and what we need to do, because we are human, but we don’t get all freaked out about our food, and give it stars or no stars, we just eat it because we need to fucking eat to live, and we do this and improve our nation’s literacy SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Now, I know what you are thinking: you are thinking that I am forgetting about our fundamental human relationship with food, and the fact that food is the staff of life, and that people right this second are starving, and that the watering, weeding, and waiting of grain is a sacred vocation, but I assure you that I am not. I am aware of all that, and that is why I think that before you take a bite of crispy, crunchy broken glass, you should remember to say a small prayer of gratitude, because the silica in that glass gave its life for you. It could have been a really beautiful vase.
And I am especially not forgetting what I perceive as a pretty much constant, ongoing culturally-induced perversion of this fundamental relationship, in the form of food obsession, and there is one way to fight back, and it is to say, like a mantra: it’s just food. And then go do something else, something that is not eating, or planning to eat, or googling “epicurious,” or watching really weird bakers on TV, or thinking about how you can get the hors d’oeuvres for your next cocktail party to be shaped like dancing mice. Do something else, people! Recycle! Work to get your candidate reelected! Memorize poetry! Go to the Milton!
It’s not that I don’t think food choices are important, but really, when you look at it, for every school of food thought, there is an opposite school of food thought, and do you really wanna get involved in that fight? Do you really want to take sides with any of the the vegan/paleo/opportunivore/gluten-free tribes? Especially when you think about how little you actually need to eat to live? You don’t need that much, people. You need, like, a couple sausages a day. And maybe some blueberries and some cereal and a cup of coffee. Done.
And this is where I have to put a word out to the parents especially, because you are going to find, if you haven’t found this already, parents, that there is nothing that star- witholding, Judgey-McJudgerson parents like to talk about more than What Your Kid is Eating. Now far be it from me to say that breast is not best, and homemade baby food is not fantastic, and vegetables aren’t good for all children at every meal, but really, I have a theory, and that theory is that by the time our kids are grown-ups, this whole thing about sitting down to eat elaborate, healthy meals while talking about Meaningful Things is going to be like churning butter once was, and our grown-ups kids are just not going to do that shit anymore. They, and their kids—our grandkids—are going to reat. And they are going to reat by sitting down with some pouches of iron-filing-fortified vegetables to squeeze into their pie holes while they download their favorite poetry anthologies straight into that chip they had implanted in their brains shortly after birth, at the hospital.
And then after reating, before bed, our children’s children will lead the family meeting where they bring up stuff that is bothering them, like how the adults behave inappropriately, and don’t share their toys, because by that time the revolution will have happened and most humans will have come to their senses and recognized that children should be in charge.
Oh, I am grumpy today. Let us now pause to consider a very lovely wormhole sent from Eli Rarey, from Santa Rosa, California:
So it is nighttime and we are walking to the car. Because I am maybe four years old I am looking around at everything instead of just walking to the car the way grown-ups do.
We lived about a two miles from the Sonoma County fairgrounds, and there was some event there on this particular evening, and they were advertising the event in a way that has become less common since the introduction of social media. They were shining giant searchlights into the sky and waving them around. So someone in Santa Rosa who was wondering what to do that night might see the lights waving around into the night sky and head over to the fairgrounds to see what was going on.
I don’t remember the exact conversation, but somehow I managed to explain to the grown-ups accompanying me that these lights were ghosts. I think the grown-ups thought that I was scared of the ghosts, which I don’t think I particularly was, since they were so far away and clearly not doing anything frightening. But thinking they needed to reassure me, the grown-ups explained to me something like what I explain in the paragraph above, about how they were really lights and people would see them and come to the fairgrounds to see what was going on.
But this is the thing. I knew they were lights. They were also ghosts. There was nothing surprising or contradictory to me about this. I remember realizing at this moment something important about grown-up life. I understood for the first time that they could not be both lights and ghosts. This was an aspect of grown-up life that had eluded me until now, but which I now understood. Things can only be one thing at a time, lights or ghosts, not both. It was a piece of information that I filed away along with what to do with muddy shoes and why you can’t run at the pool.
It didn’t seem all that important at the time, only in retrospect. The grown-ups thought they were explaining a fact to me, when I already knew the facts. They were actually demonstrating a principle, a principle, which now I believe to be totally inaccurate. I believe this is true of a lot of what they taught me, then.
OK. So now that you know What You should Be Eating, sort of, let me close this column with a recipe, because everyone loves fucking recipes. And since I can only make six things, one of which is cereal, and my intern Josh is working on a cookbook called “Cooking for Non-Artisans” I am stealing this recipe from him.
Breakfast by Josh
Make the coffee.
Get a can of Redi-whip out of the fridge. Squirt some directly into your mouth because it is fun to do that.
Squirt some more Redi-whip into a cup. Throw some grape nuts on top. If no grape nuts, whatever cereal you have.
If there isn’t any cereal, just squirt Redi-whip directly into coffee. Get something to read.
I love you.
xx Doc Fuss