Thursday, October 04, 2007

Food is an Attitude

To me, food is an attitude. When I consider food, I take a stance, sometimes political, often metaphorical. I buy free-range chicken, for example, because I support the idea of chickens roaming freely. I eat free-range chicken, on the bone, on the other hand, because my lust for life calls for the juiciest meats (free-range chickens are always more juicy...)

Firmly rooted in my food attitudes, I express who I am, not only as a consumer, but a human being. In this expression, like most humans, I am incredibly stubborn and idiosyncratic. I have my opinions and, quite naturally, I am a firm advocate of my opinions.

For example:

I have never understood people who can't cook. Maybe, I often think, they do not know how to eat. (Actually, come to think of it, I've met many people, including many chefs, who don't know how to eat. But that's neither here nor there…)

But to not cook seems to me to be a terrible shortcoming, a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who does not eat meat. He would quietly become sadder, and, little by little, he would lose his virility. (Trust me, I know this to be true...)

Also, I have never understood the type who refuses to lick his plate. Some people actually say plate-licking is offensive. This is offensive. Really, what type of repressive regime disapproves of something as simple and humble as plate-licking? What's so wrong with slurping up the tastiest juices. To not lick your plate also seems to me to be a terrible shortcoming. The person who does not lick his plate is like the person who refuses to dance. Most often, you find him in the corner, moping, utterly repressed and balding. (I know this to be true too...)

Finally, I have never understood the person who refuses to eat meat from the bone. What, exactly, are these people refusing? Life itself, it seems to me. In bones we discover the root of flavor, the very essence of our animal love for meat. In men, I find this attribute inexcusable. I can only compare the man who does not eat meat from the bone to the castrati, forever doomed to beauty and unmanliness.

We all have our own vehement food attitudes. One person prefers rare meat. The other prefers meat well done. (The latter, to me, is a criminal; eating meat well done is an inexcusable offense.)

I was a vegetarian for eight years. Now I'm half-man, half-carnivorous animal. Here's what Anthony Bourdain has to say about vegetarians:

"Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. it's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold."

I first read this when I was a vegetarian and I have to admit it gave me pause. It's pure vehemence. Back then, I was repulsed by it. Now, as a meat eater, I relish it.

It's healthy to love food vehemently and to express that love with passion. We are human when we compel with love.

So, why don't you compel? Tell us: what are your food attitudes? Please share--the more vehement the better.

Post your attitudes below, as a comment, or e-mail them to me:

We'll post another blog soon listing your food attitudes.

Feel free to send pictures, drawings, or hunks of meat--whatever.

Just please: be vehement and honest! Imagine yourself drinking beer on a plaza, arguing stridently....Get all worked up!


Toby said...

Great article. I am a plate licker, and a finger eater, I eat with my fingers, I don't eat fingers. Actually I am a vegetarian. But as I have only been in that state for a few weeks/months I have not yet gone bald or impotent. In fact the opposite is true. My hair has grown and I am potent. You better believe it!

As I am an ex-smoker who loves the smell of cigarettes, and an ex-alcoholic who loves the romance of alcohol, so I am a vegetarian who adores the culture of meat-preparation and meat-eating -- and trusts the carnivore more than the vegan. Every time.

My life pattern these days prevents me cooking, except on rare occasions. I miss it. Reading your blog I realized it actually hurts. Time to do something about that. Gotta run...

Bocephus said...

My food attitude? There are certain things that I absolutely will not put on my food. Ketchup? No. Mustard? No. A-1? Why?? Mayonnaise? No f'ing way.

The way I figure it, if you like your food, why hide it under a layer of ooze?

And, on a related note, what is the deal with mayonnaise, anyway?? That stuff just completely grosses me out. Upon acquiring a roommate after years of living solo, it was a Herculean effort for me to be able to even tolerate having that pus-looking slime in my refrigerator.

Karen said...

My food attitude is about being open and adventurous while constantly evolving.

As I child, I ate pretty much anything given to me. But I still developed distastes for certain foods and a love for others. In the last few years I've revisited some of the foods I had an early childhood aversion to and have been pleasantly surprised. Some of my favorite re-discoveries are olives, mushrooms, more adventurous (i.e., stronger) cheeses and eel.

Based on this experience, I think that the refusal or fear of trying or re-trying a food based on a vague notion that one does not or will not like it is an unacceptable shortcoming! Down with boring, robotic food selection!

Seth said...


Personally, I find your veiled attacks against my highly idiosyncratic form of monasticism highly distubring. But I suppose that's what I was asking for.

I look at my current food addictions as serious, terrible shortcomings. I hope they make me easier to love...

Noah Oliphant said...

I've got plenty of food attitude. I love food and I love to cook food. I have strong passions in line with your post. I love meat off the bone, as rare as possible. I love a strong drink.

I couldn't argue that vegetarians aren't equally passionate. Just passionate about different types of food. Let's not judge them for their choices.

to becephus: There is nothing wrong with mayo. Try making it yourself, and while you are at it, throw in some fresh herbs. Cilantro and basil work very well. You'll want to put it on everything from sandwiches to steamed veggies. Granted it isn't anything like the store bought weird stuff you are averted to.

Check out the mayo recipe here:

dsc said...

Sorry man, much too many generalizations.

Meat equals a stiff rod and high libido for example. I could probably prove you right and I could probably prove you wrong. I could google proving the world is flat for that matter. I was a veggie half my life and I was an oversexed virile slut with or without meat. Last time I started eating meat again was when I became observant and fulfilled the mitzvah of eating meat on Shabbos. One reason I stopped being observant was when it made me ill eating an over cooked 21 day aged rib steak plus one of my passions is chicken livers in my spaghetti sauce, which is not kosher.

I have never been more aware or the colors textures aromas of foods as when I was a veggie, never been more selective, never more aware of the cooking process, and wonderful recipes. Tofu was my friend.

That always depended on a relationship. I am a very good cook but have had no motivation to cook myself a meal and sit down to a well set table and dine alone.

Seth said...

Noah & David (dsc):

I'm not talking here about the way one should be. I'm talking, quite frankly, about the way I (and for that matter, many, many others) are: passionate and opinionated.

I certainly judge vegetarians for there food choices. It's not something that I'm proud of, but hey, it's something I do. Why not?

The fact that I was a vegetarian for so many years means basically that I am judging my former self, which is probably even worse then judging others. But hey, I do it, and I do it with reckless zeal. I like it. I have many, many vegetarian friends. Hell, my wife is still essentially vegetarian. And one of my dearest friends and a possible future business associate is a vegetarian. I love him and I love his cooking.

David: In terms of the generalizations, to me, that's what having an attitude is all about!

An attitude is a fierce opinion that may seem so utterly idiosyncratic as to be ridiculous.

How, for example, could Bo not appreciate Mayo. He's insane, right?

But aren't these idiosyncracies what make people interesting.

Opinions are always firey.

But cooks deal with fire, after all. Fire burns. Fire creates flavor.

I still like you even though you don't cook.

Suzanne said...

Remember that time we went to Fork and ate with our fingers? We all got drunk and laughed uproariously at my father’s German sauna anecdote. I thought we were going to kicked out we were having such deliciously inappropriate fun for a restaurant! That's eating!

I agree with Karen. To add to what she said, I would also say that gratitude is part of my attitude. When a person welcomes me into their home and offers me food and drink, nothing gives me more pleasure than saying yes. It funny, because when I was a vegetarian I got a sort of sardonic pleasure of saying “No. I’m a vegetarian”. I was so smug. That all changed one day in Argentina. I hadn’t eaten meat in seven years. A Peruvian friend who cleaned the offices where I was teaching English invited me to celebrate Mother’s Day with his family. They lived in a slum about forty-five minutes outside the city. They had no running water. They served me chicken and potatoes. How could I refuse them? They had so little and were inviting me to share the food that they had prepared to honor my visit to their home. “I’m a vegetarian” no longer made me feel smug. I ate the chicken with gusto. I also drank beer mixed with Coca-Cola, which they insisted was better than anything. To be honest, it wasn’t bad.

Seth said...


My father's told me that I come from a long line of Jewish people known for getting kicked out of restaurants. My father, too, is known for this.

I love getting drunk, eating with gusto, and listening to stories about saunas. If we offend others, all the better!

Your meat story has to be a blog. I love that story.

Bert said...

I love it that you are advocating the Attitude, like Damone in Fast Times...

Our attitudes toward food reflect our attitudes toward ourselves and our relationship with the earth on a psychodynamic level, as well as on consumer and agrarian levels.

Food as an attitude is not only metaphorical but metaphysical too. It is part of our preternature, the foundation of all basic senses.

I have always found meat to be an essential part of the human diet. We are omnivores.

"The grass was meant for the cows and ass
And the herb on this planet for the use of man"
-G. Isaacs

Bocephus said...

Regarding food slime, this is the sort of thing I'm talking about:

I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Noah, kind sir, we will have to agree to disagree about mayo (which is, in my opinion, most of what makes food so much fun!) I definitely feel you about herbs. I love them! For example, I think rosemary is so wondrous that it should be baked into those little styrofoam crackers that become Divine after Catholics eat them. It's that good. But I'm a texture person, and the texture of mayonnaise beats on my gag reflex like it's Rodney King. Cottage cheese is a very close second in that regard. Liquid cheese rounds out that most Unholy Trinity.

And, Seth, you may be right -- I may be crazy. You may be wrong, for all I know, but you may be right.

Seth said...

Bert: you've managed to compare me to the slimiest creature in movie history. Thank you.

Bo: I agree with the texture thing--there's a fine line between silken and slimey.

dsc said...

Seth, I cook well. I said I am not motivated to set a fine table and cook an exquisite meal just for myself. Alone I am quite happy eating a bowl of cereal with ice cold 2% milk standing up. Expecting company, I will joyfully prepare for three days. Shabbos and a family, I began polishing my silverware on Sunday, chicken soup began Wednesday, challa, Friday, mmm.

Cooking and loving my own company is ideal. I am far from ideal.

Attitude? Being in love and watching her savoring every mouthful without making her feel uncomfortable and self consciouses is an art. Watching and receiving pleasure from loved ones eating is a Jewish thing. My Nanny passed it on to me. I had an insatiable appetite as a kid. She loved having me over for supper. "More Duvadle?" I believe Italians borrow our Jewish thing occasionally.

ULOF said...

And speaking of kistch.....thanks for serving up such a heaping helping of it. Tsk. Tsk. And just when I was thinking you might be highly evolved!

When considering WHY people might choose vegetarianism, consider this:

According to the USDA, growing the crops necessary to feed farmed animals requires nearly half of the United States' water supply and 80% of its agricultural land. Additionally, animals raised for food in the U.S. consume 90% of the soy crop, 80% of the corn crop, and a total of 70% of its grain.[65]

When tracking food animal production from the feed trough to consumption, the inefficiencies of meat, milk and egg production range from 4:1 energy input to protein output ratio up to 54:1. As it was published, "U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists Future water and energy shortages predicted to change face of American agriculture" [66] To produce animal based food seems to be, according tho these studies, typically much less efficient than the harvesting of grains, vegetables, legumes, seeds and fruits. Exception is made of animals that are grazed rather than fed, especially those grazed on land that could not be used for other purposes.

According to the theory of Trophic dynamics, it requires 10 times as many crops to feed animals being bred for meat production, than the amount of crops that would be required to feed the same amount of people on a vegetarian diet. Currently, 70% of all the wheat, corn and other grain produced is fed to farmed animals[67]. This has led many proponents to believe that it is ecologically irresponsible to consume meat.

Another argument is that farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the United States. Since factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems as cities and towns do, this ends up polluting ground water, destroying the topsoil, and contaminating the air.[68] And meat-eaters are responsible for the production of 100 percent of this waste—about 86,000 pounds per second.[69]

See? Kistch! And apparently (according to the above) YOU are full of it!!

Steve said...

I've just finished a 3-day Yom Tov, had a few beers, listened on the radio to my team being swept in Colorado, and am sufficiently Werkd Up.

I would instantly want to fight the following people:

-anyone who eats french fries with a fork

-anyone who refuses to take a polite bite

-anyone who has "issues" about drinking from another's cup

-Henry Foley (just because its been a long time since I've kicked his punk ass.)

Seth said...


This blog and the sentiments I express in it are ANTI-kitsch.

Kitsch is not the willingness to produce excrement but the willingness to talk about it. Kitsch denies excrement. I highlight it.

As for the meat-grain argument, I agree, a ridiculous amount of grain is produced to produce a meager amount of meat. So, what does this mean? Can a person eat meat and still hold a sense of responsibility and compassion?

Of course. Your comment alludes to it: eat grassfed beef. The grain-meat equation is a naive assessment, at best, of the ecological benefits of vegetariansim.

Here's a quote, which I follow, from Dr. Mercola:

There are environmental advantages to animal farming even on land that could be used for vegetable crops.

Where animals are farmed in fields they fertilize the ground naturally with little need for the artificial inorganic fertilizers that so worry people. The tonnes of nitrate fertilizers that leach in ever-increasing quantities into our streams and rivers are not used primarily for meat production but for the production of cereals and other vegetable crops.
With animal farming, fields are usually small and bounded by hedgerows.

The good herdsman will also tend to keep trees to shelter his animals from the heat of the summer sun. The field margins, trees and hedges provide a habitat for small animals, insects and wild flowers.

Arable farming on a large scale, on the other hand, means combine harvesters, and combine harvesters demand large open fields. On such farms hedges and trees are an encumbrance: thousands of miles of hedges have been torn out this century.

People bemoan the fact that a large number of animal and plant species are losing their hedgerow homes; they are sad that those species are becoming endangered - and then they espouse vegetarianism which would mean the destruction of even more hedges and trees and accelerate the trend!

ULOF said...

Oh my god...I didn't realize I was endangering hedges and trees! Throw an extra slab on the grill for ME, Seth.... and long live shrubbery!

(This is a great dialogue!)

dsc said...

To hell with intellectual ecological principle based discourse. I say we get trashed and do some cow tipping.

Seth said...

dsc (David):

That's the goddam greatest comment ever.