During my summer travels abroad and a temporary break from social media, I got glimpses of a world where all food is ok–a world where people choose what to eat based on what’s seasonal, what their body is craving; a world where you stop eating when you’re satisfied; a world without restriction. This place as far as I know doesn’t exist, but in moments, encounters, and reflections I am able to take myself there.
As a dietitian working with food allergies and sensitivities, numerous medical conditions and general suboptimal health and wellbeing, I understand that there are people that need to have dietary limitations. I also recognize the many ethical, religious, and other reasons for choosing not to eat certain foods. There are some foods that I choose to pass on without feeling like I’m missing out. That being said, I hope you’ll for a moment enter into the world I can only imagine.
Before we go there, let’s go to a party. At this party, you meet a lot of people you’ve never met before. After introductions and light chit-chat, hor d’oeuvres are offered and your new acquaintance declines because she doesn’t eat grains. After you sit down for dinner, your table mate passes the chicken because he only eats fish. When dessert is served, the hostess announces that the cake is gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. The post-meal conversation in your circle revolves around what people aren’t eating these days.
It seems like we need to be wearing a label on our shirt that says what we don’t eat. Then no need to apologize. You can see that I’m vegan. Taking it one step further, my label is my badge of honor. I am proud that I don’t eat (fill in the blank), and maybe you shouldn’t eat it either. Some even go so far as to judge those who haven’t earned their badge of dietary restrictions.
Now go from this scenario to a dinner, a place, a world where there is good food made with fresh ingredients, prepared in a healthful way that tastes good and is satisfying. Here people want to know who you are, what makes you tick, how you are spending your precious life, how they can be a part of that journey, and how you can be a part of theirs. There are no judgments (positive or negative) about your weight, what you put on your plate, what you send by untouched, what you drink, whether you run marathons or like to walk your dogs. There is no pride related to your eating habits nor is there shame.
I’m not sure if I will ever experience all of this at one time. This summer I had a taste of what it’s like to see all food allowed (well, except maybe poor quality food; why have a cheap candy bar when you can have an exceptional truffle?). It was incredibly freeing.
If we could only combine this food culture with a value of people at their essence–not what they’ve accomplished, where they work, their titles, salaries, weight, diet badges.
If you find a place like this, let me know. I want to live there.