As I’m sure you know, Thanksgiving, or to be more precise, Black Friday, kicks off the big holiday gift shopping season. For the last few days I’ve felt bombarded with ads imploring me to buy, buy, buy! It seems somewhat ironic that the orgy of eating that is Turkey Day should be followed as a matter of course by an orgy of shopping. It makes me wonder what it is about our culture that glorifies extreme consumption and makes us always crave more, whether that means a bigger, gooier cheeseburger or a bigger, flashier flat screen television.
We even define ourselves this way, as consumers. If you look up the word ‘consume’ in the dictionary, it has several meanings, some of which have to do with eating, drinking and generally enjoying something. But the word can also mean to be used up or destroyed, as in the sense of being consumed in a fire, for example. I find this very interesting.
There are many ways to think about the act of eating. You can eat to live or live to eat. Food can be something to have fun with or a chore to prepare. And yes, you can be a consumer of food, eat it, enjoy it, use it up. It seems to me that if your eating-mindset can be defined by the word consumption, then you are most likely in the moment, enjoying the taste or how a food makes you feel. You are probably not thinking about what the food might give you in return, whether that means something good (i.e., vitamins and minerals) or something not so good (i.e., saturated fat or refined sugar).
You could also think about eating as nourishment. Nourishment is defined as something that sustains and aids in growth. If you are eating to nourish yourself, then you are definitely thinking about what the food will give you in return, both in terms of immediate nutrients and long-term health. This may sound preachy, like I’m using the simple act of eating as a way to pass some kind of culinary moral judgment, but that would be pretty foolish of me considering I’ve spent way more of my eating life in consumption mode than in nourishment mode. Let’s just say it’s something to think about.
Sometimes, like on Thanksgiving, I think enjoying a meal that would be considered excessive under normal circumstances could be nourishing. To occasionally cut loose with those we love is good for us, physically, emotionally and spiritually; to eat that way every day is another matter. It’s hard to make that distinction when everything around you is screaming buy, buy, buy! Eat, eat, eat!
In the end, the best advice I can give is this. Consumer beware.