Let’s just get this out of the way upfront: I was a chubby kid/teen/young adult, so that probably has a lot to do with this, but I believe I’m mostly repulsed by the idea of talking about a meal in detail because food is something any organism needs to survive. I don’t want to hear about your lunch for the same reason I don’t want to hear about the last bowel movement you took or your most recent orgasm; it’s the least personal thing a human can do in that we all do it, but the most personal in that I’m not entirely sure any two humans experience food in the same way. We’re a little bit more complex than our conversations about food suggest.
Somewhere between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two, I dropped sixty pounds and my attitude toward food totally changed. I went from feeling like meals were the cornerstones of my day to barely finding the time to choke down what I needed to survive. It wasn’t until a year or so after that that I realized how many nights in my teenage years were programmed around a meal. Friday night was Chili’s with my girlfriends and Saturday night was Chili’s with my boyfriend (our chain restaurant options were really limited in Lexington, MA.) I would consume a week’s worth of calories over the course of a weekend as if it was a replacement for a social activity. I don’t think this is particularly abnormal, as I’ve met people even in my adult life that will call me up bored on a Saturday night and say, “Wanna just go get food or something?”
It’s not that I hate food itself. I’m not a monster; I love pizza and enjoying a meal at a restaurant with my friends like everyone else. But I hate the idea that food is a character in our lives, I hate that it’s treated as if it’s art or that being a “foodie” is a now a lifestyle choice or a hobby instead of what it really is: A prettier shade of an eating disorder. Enjoying your meal is one thing, but turning what should be the equivalent to a trip to the gas station into an event or extra curricular activity should not be socially acceptable. In fact, it’s one of the greatest hypocrisies in our culture. How can we have an open dialogue about childhood obesity and at the very same time, an entire television network devoted to purchasing, preparing and consuming food?
Nothing hacks away at my nerves like an episode of Top Chef. Unlike most competition shows where it’s possible to pick a favorite based on something more than personality, with a cooking competition, you’re relying 100% on the judges’ opinion of each contestant’s work, I don’t know those judges. I don’t know if they refuse to eat mayonnaise like I do. In fact, I presume they don’t have many restrictions, which to me is proof enough that they’re unqualified to make a judgment. It’s all too subjective. I don’t know what their taste buds do inside their mouth.
Shows like this have also inspired people to be at-home critics and amateur experts. Somewhere around 35% of the blogs I encounter detail the author’s most recent romp in the kitchen, and while the process of preparing food is significantly less offensive to me the act of consuming it (at least one of those things requires effort,) it’s more of that, “Do you think you’re special because you combined ingredients in a pan and then put them inside of your face, masticated them with the exposed bone inside of said face, and then passed it down to your pharynx in a wet lump?”-thing. I’d be interested in seeing food bloggers post photos of themselves masturbating so I can get a better sense of how they get that done, too.
The never-ending discussion about food and the pleasure/pain it brings us says more to me about the state of our culture than anything having to do with unemployment rates or Jersey Shore. People can’t stop talking about what does it for them when they stick things in their mouth, and that’s straight-up animalistic.