Friday, February 10, 2012

the (food) pleasure principle

Last night, I had dinner with my friend Meia and her boyfriend, Kevin - both of whom are lovely people and whose company I always enjoy. We'd planned to go to this breakfast/dinner place called Milky & Sunny at Pasig City, which is located at a pleasant part of the city, full of restaurants and small bars and cafes. It boded well that beside the restaurant was a Moonleaf milk tea place, and across the road was the original Charlie's Grill, one of the best burger-and-fries places I've ever been to.

I like food, and I like eating, and I think that eating is one of the greatest pleasures in life. I know food writers and food critics will probably say what I will be saying in a more poignant or philosophical manner, but to me, food is always related to pleasure and to social events and experiences, and to realizing that the world is infinitely better because some enterprising Neanderthal decided that his meat will taste better if he puts it over a fire.

I'm one of those people who don't really mind eating by myself. In fact, back in Singapore, I developed a habit of going out by myself on Sundays, going to my favorite Japanese restaurant with a book, and just spend two hours or so nursing a cup of matcha and slowly going through a bowl of udon and some sushi rolls. I guess it's compounded by the fact that my ex-boyfriend (a) usually worked 7 days a week, leaving me usually to my own devices, and (b) he had dietary restrictions, which meant that there were only a handful of restaurants we could go to. Add to that the fact that he was not an adventurous eater and preferred grabbing a burger at McDonalds instead of trying out a new restaurant, and, well, let's say that I'm glad we're no longer together.

But what I'm trying to say is this: food is important. And the cooking and baking and frying and grilling of food, as an activity, is something that is important to the fabric of human existence. Cooking is a zen activity for me; it frees my mind from other concerns because what I'm concentrating on are the steps, the best way to be efficient in a kitchen, to make sure that I end up with the best results possible given that I'm trying to make something that looks and tastes and smells good. And I love cooking with friends - I think it's a great social activity, making something with people you care about. Food can be a solitary experience, but it can also be a social experience, and in my opinion, the best meals I've ever had are with people I care about.

As a corollary, dieting to me has always been contentious. I understand dieting for health reasons - most people will avoid certain types of food because they're either allergic to it, or they need to control their food intake because their doctor recommended it. Controlling your portions is also understandable - obesity is a dangerous state, and to carry that much weight on your body is frightening and honestly, life-threatening. But to not eat certain things because one believes in an invisible deity that says that "Hey, no pigs for you" or "Shellfish is a no-no" is, quite frankly, absurd. I'm fairly certain that, should God really exist, He may have other, more pressing concerns than sending people into the pit just for indulging in their craving for roast pork.

I mean, really.

Plus, pork is lovely.

Also, this means that the entire Catholic community's screwed because the Bible clearly states: NO PORK.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is: food is great. And the partaking of food in a pleasurable manner is not a bad thing, because pleasure in and of itself is not bad. I mean, as long as you understand the concept of moderation, the concept of balance, and you're not hurting yourself or anyone around you - well, the ethics of food creation and production aside, which is a contentious subject in and of itself, and people more qualified than I am to discuss this should be discussing this anyway - then please, by all means, go ahead. Indulge. You only get one life to eat.


  1. This is one of my favorite quotes about communal nature of food. :)

    "Food delights us, food unites us, food embodies the soil, the sea and the weather, the farmer’s sweat and the fisherman’s toil. But as these tales and my own edible adventures reveal, food is only part of a feast. Every meal, whether a single mango or a multi-course molecular masterpiece, is really a communing of spirit: just as important are the setting and the situation, the effort, attentiveness and intention that infuse and inform what we share. We feast on the love behind and within the offering, love for a moment, a lesson, a gift, for companions and connections, that will never be repeated and can never be replaced. For me, this revelation has been the last course in this literary bacchanal of risk, embrace and care: the exquisite beauty of the moveable feast is its savoury serendipity – as on that long-ago day in rural Japan, it can leap into your life when you least expect it, anywhere."

    - Don George, A Moveable Feast: Life-Changing Food Adventures Around The World

  2. I love that one. :) I should read that book. Borrow borrow?


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