A few years ago, I found myself going through a phase of being particularly concerned about my diet. I had just taken a health studies course through a local community college relating to nutrition and lifestyle. One of the course projects was to compile a journal of foods consumed on a daily basis. Although I had considered myself to be a relatively conscientious and aware consumer, attempting as much as possible to avoid over-eating, and generally staying away from highly processed foods and foods high in saturated fats and trans fats, I was still somewhat alarmed to see my daily intake jotted down in black and white. Among my most significant dietary downfalls was my fairly high consumption of cheeses, and cream in my coffee. Around the same time, my husband had been diagnosed with slightly elevated cholesterol levels. All of this caused me to go on a bit of a crusade with respect to reducing fat intake.
One night, my husband and I were invited over to a friend’s cabin on the Sunshine Coast for a weekend. In order to stay on track with my new diet, I decided to pack along some raw materials for healthy salads and some low fat snacks. When we got there the very first night, our host announced that he was going to be preparing homemade fish and chips with some cod that he had caught that morning.
I have to confess that fish and chips is one of my all-time favourite meals. Nevertheless, I was determined to stick to my guns, and insisted on only eating the healthy and fat-free foods I had brought along. Furthermore, while everyone else was drinking mugs of English-style ale and porter, I was primly sipping away on white wine spritzers and glasses of lemon water. As we were eating dinner that night, I watched to others tucking into their delicious looking meals, and heard their comments about the crispness of the batter and the perfection of the chips with a mixture of moral superiority, irrational resentment of the others’ enjoyment, and a strange sense of guilt. Although nothing was said, or even subtly conveyed for that matter, I couldn’t help but feel that I was somehow in the wrong for sticking so rigidly to my diet. Something told me I was being less than gracious.
Truth to tell, I didn’t really enjoy myself that evening, or even the next day. I sensed, somehow, that my refusal to share the food the others were eating had, in a subtle way, separated me from them. In a sense, I had refused to “break bread” with them, which after all is the true meaning of the word “companionship”.
Perhaps it may seem like an odd thing, but ever since that time, I have always made an effort to never turn down food that has been lovingly prepared for me by someone. Diets come and go, and what is really important is the food that is prepared and eaten on a daily basis, day-in, day-out, over the course of weeks, months and years. What I have come to learn is, food offered up by someone is something special, and should be treated as an exception to the rule. It is, in my opinion, a more important consideration to display friendship and solidarity whenever possible than to stick to some rigid personal standard. Live and learn.