The joy of eating

How one woman learned that an all-you-can-eat appetite for food doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure

Embracing food

I had had enough. There was just too much good food out there to deprive myself or blindly make my way to the bottom of the Doritos bag. My body and taste buds deserved better. I wanted to be conscious about eating, without vilifying carbs or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I wanted food to nourish and excite me, not control me.

So, I relearned how to eat. I sought out new teachers, ones who weren’t at war with food or trapped between what they wanted to eat and wanting to be accepted. Like my friend Beata, a vegetarian actress with watery green eyes, who showed me the beauty of a single dollop of pesto on silky noodles. She taught me what every nut, herb and vegetable did for my body and, in her opinion, my soul. Then there was the father of an ex-boyfriend, a Harley-riding bioengineer who could massage, marinate and cook a piece of meat with a passion that was almost obscene, and utterly mouth-watering. I learned a respect for everything on my plate from the farmers I’ve met along the way, who raise their crops with almost the same care as they raise their children. And finally, there’s a food-writer friend, with whom I discuss the virtues of fries and wings at the local greasy spoon as well as the splendour of seared foie gras.

Today, I continue to choose good teachers and share what I’ve learned with the old ones. A spear of asparagus now excites me more than cookie-dough ice cream. I enjoy the odd Big Mac, but now I experience it for what it is: tasty empty calories, with a hint of the comforting childhood memories of Saturday-afternoon shopping trips with my dad. It’s not always easy. Memories of an old guilt still tug at me as I dig in to a second helping of dessert, but now I understand where they come from. I eat with a freedom I never had before. I no longer eat blind.

“Look at that,” my mother said recently as she stared at my cutting board. I was making her dinner, sinking my knife into the first blue Peruvian potato she’d seen. A wash of violet danced over the countertop as we marvelled at the unlikely pigments inside the tuber. We had both come a long way from the Formica kitchen where it all started. Now, I could revel in sharing all my food discoveries with her. That night, we laughed and ate until our fingers were sticky with grilled lamb juices. After dinner, the leftover mounds of lilac mashed potato held us in awe as they cooled and slowly bloomed into deep indigo, like a giant mood ring. “Isn’t food wonderful?” she said smiling. “We’re so lucky to have it.” And so lucky to have people to share it with.