What Food Teaches Us About Life

It’s always good to try new things.

I think this is this is the golden rule of food, and it should be the golden rule of life. At one point, everything we did was new — we are born having done nothing (or in the case of food, eaten nothing), and over time we find out what we like by trial-and-error. Oftentimes though, we stop trying new things, we get comfortable in routines and avoid taking risks. But taking risks is what makes life interesting; it’s what prevents stagnation, keeps us from getting rotten. Sure, every once in a while you’ll come across something you don’t like, but guess what? You’ll live.*

*This does not account for trying potentially deadly things, like eating blowfish or base jumping, in which case, you might not live. But, you also might get hit by a bus crossing the street to Starbucks, so even if you do die at least it will be from something cool.

Combining sour and sweet creates a richer flavor.

I’m always amazed at unexpected combinations in my food, how mixing savory and sweet (like salt sprinkled on chocolate, peanut butter on bananas, and melon with prosciutto) can create fuller, richer flavors. Now, this might seem like bullsh-t to some, but I think sweet and sour experiences also make for a richer, more complete life. Certainly, we all strive for the best and rejoice when good things happen to us, but I think most people will admit you learn a whole hell of a lot more from surviving bad experiences. A lot of the time, we look back on our struggles and declare we wouldn’t go back and change them if we could, because they had a hand in making us what we are. And, if nothing else, misfortune makes us appreciate good fortune all the more. Which is why I say we need to embrace these contrasting flavors, both in life and on our plates — we’ll be more complete for it in the end.

Hide your peas in mashed potatoes.

I hate peas. I mean, really hate them. Peas don’t stay on a fork, you can only eat like three of them at a time, and after all that effort, they taste disgusting. If I thought people would buy it, I would write a book (a memoir?) entitled Peas Can Suck My Dick. At one Thanksgiving dinner though, my aunt taught me that I could hide the peas in my mashed potatoes (which I love), douse the whole thing in gravy, and I wouldn’t even notice they were there. And she was right! I couldn’t taste them, they stuck together, and my pea-rage was completely gone! To this day, I think of hiding my peas as a metaphor for taking things I hate and masking them with things I love, and you should do this too. Hate exercise? Hide it in a dance class or a pickup soccer game. Hate studying for exams? Put on your favorite movie while you mindlessly make flashcards, and then use the cards to turn studying into a game; a game you’ll win by acing the test. There are certain crappy things in life you just have to do, but there’s almost always a way to make them bearable.

There are some foods you just don’t like and do not have to eat.

Not all food is as easily hidden as peas (I have yet to find an effective way to consume cow brains without gagging, for example) and for this food I simply say: avoid it. We are adults now; we don’t have to force ourselves to like everything. This is true for many other things in life, specifically careers and people. If we don’t want to grow up to be doctors, we shouldn’t go to medical school because our parents think it’s a good idea (in the same way we shouldn’t make ourselves eat something because someone else thinks it tastes good). Furthermore, if you don’t like being around someone, don’t be around them. This is your life, you don’t get bonus points for hanging out with people who make you crazy. I like how Amy Poehler phrased it: “Only hang around people that are positive and make you feel good… and the earlier you start in your life the better. The minute anybody makes you feel weird and non-included or not supported, either beat it or tell them to beat it.” And when has Amy Poehler been wrong about anything?

Treat yourself once in a while.

I will, every now and then, pull a Regina George and decide I “just want to lose three pounds.” I’ll calculate fat percentages, I’ll count calories, I’ll hop on the scale every day for two weeks and berate myself when I’m the same weight as yesterday… and then I’ll say, “Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries!” I do this because it’s impossible to be good 100% of the time, and even if it were, I wouldn’t be happy doing it. There are so many expressions which reiterate the importance of indulging every now and then: “all work and no play,” “early to rise and early bed, makes a man healthy but socially dead,” and my all-time-favorite, “treat yo self!” What would life be like without something heinously fun and irresponsible to look forward to now and then?

You can have too much of a good thing.

You know how much I hate peas? Well, take the opposite of that, and that’s how much I LOVE the orange chicken at Panda Express. I can’t get enough of it; I crave it every day, and give into that craving almost once a week. If I thought people would buy it, I would write a book (a memoir?) entitled Orange Chicken Is Better Than Sex. That being said, if I eat too much of that delectable fried poultry, I start to feel horrendously sick to my stomach and my self-loathing kicks in big time. It’s the same with everything else. Hanging out with friends, kicking back, having a drink, walking around your apartment naked — all of these things are great (nay, necessary!) in moderation, but if you do them too much, you start to lose sight of your goals and your ambitions and you become that sad, alcoholic party-boy who never has any pants on. It’s not always easy, but you have to wear pants sometimes, my friends. You just do. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock

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