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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Food, Glorious Food

"We have been trapped here for so long. Thousands of us are sealed in a limbo, alive but not fully alive. It has been so long. It has been too long. If I had senses I would notice the disturbance in the air, I might have even notice that our time has come. Alas, even if I had senses I wouldn't know what's happening in my inactive condition. The splash of warm water wakes me up. Where are we? What happened? How long were we inactive? It doesn't matter though. We have been released from our captivity, we are fully awake, and our basic need trumps everything else. The food source is readily available, and we the survivors gobble it like a bunch of maniacs. God knows how long this food could last, but it will do us no harm to keep satiating ourselves. The need to reproduce comes next, and soon our group has become much larger, and it grew larger ever since. It is a bliss to be in that state, with food in abundance and the family in sight, with our genetic lines ensured and all is prosperous. Nothing last forever though. The heat comes like a thief in the night, and swiftly murder almost everyone. Some that survive tried their hardest to conquer it, and valiantly (and stubbornly) refuse to die over the heat. All to no avail. In the end, everyone is gone. And with this, I take my leave too...

Epilogue: [the sound of a little girl] "Mommy, is the bread ready yet?" "

I love food. I really, really love food. Of all the things that man creates, food is the true bridge between God, nature, and human. Not religion, not music or art, but food, glorious food. You might think I am weird, but think about it. Food producing requires full cooperation between nature (which is created by God) and human. Nature can produce food by itself, but it is up to human to nurture nature in order to get enough food for everyone. Not only that, human can also mixed different food together and using the natural resources (e.g. heat) that has been adapted to suit the purpose to create a new mashed-up food that is fulfilling both for body and soul. We can help nature to create food, and we can make it taste a whole lot better. What is better or more awesome than that?

True, human interference with nature has not always been good. The rise of the human population, for example, increase the need for basic food and therefore increasing areas designated for food producing or over exerting the current available food source. Yet this is not about the politic of food, this writing is about the miracle of food. I called it a miracle because there is no other way to describe it. Every living thing that we eat, be it vegetables, grains, meat, have life in them. Each has numerous living breathing cells that minded their own business until we made them into a part of our body by the act of eating them. Inside our body those cells and other chemical inside our food provided us with energy and also with more 'building blocks' such as minerals and vitamins to repair ourselves. This is what eating is all about. Even though the chemistry of food digestion can be taught, it still feels like a miracle to me that an unassuming living thing can power our body, and that we basically live from the life energy transferred from our previously-alive food. 

Food is also about satisfaction, and about art and delight as well. A bread is good, but a nice, fluffy tasty bread is a lot better. Even those who claimed they know nothing about art can easily express themselves with food. We often eat on impulses, chowing whatever things our body needed in that exact time. Sometimes we need salt, sometimes it's carbohydrate, sometimes it's water; we listened - often unconsciously - to our body. Yet there will be time where we want to simply feel good and feel comfortable about ourselves, and food is the easiest and surest way to achieve that. You can dressed up your food anyway you like it, there is never right or wrong in eating food. Some like things extra salty, some prefer extra spicy, some prefer bland food, all to his/her own. You are the master of your own food.

If those are not enough reasons to love food, there is also the fact that we can learn more about a certain area's geography and way of life just from their food. The kind of spices and produce that one use in traditional cooking tells us about the spice and produce locally grown in the said area. How it is cooked (or eaten) will tell us about their way of life and even clues about what can they do or cannot do in terms of cooking. Oven, for instance, is not really a popular thing in Bali. However, we are used in steaming or grilling things instead. I guess it have something to do with making quick meals (oven can take longer than steaming and grilling) and difficulty to maintain such hot temperature for a long time. In a way, it is easy enough to go "Around the World in 80 Dishes" to appreciate the big, vast world we live in. 

Yet after all said and done, we human are still guilty about how we treat our food. No, I am not talking about the mistreatment of nature or the inhumane act against animals as food source. I am talking about our wastefulness. Even though food is valuable for our body, even though food gives us satisfaction and connect us with nature and the world in general, we still manage to overlook them and casually just throwing it in the garbage. When you prepare your food or in the act of eating your food, please always remember to take (or prepare) only what you need. The same goes with buying produce. The goal is always, always try to have as little waste as possible. The more efficient you eat, the less stress you put in nature (and food producers) about creating enough food for everyone. And if that does not move you, remember that everything you eat at one point was a living thing too, even the harmless looking vegetables. They may not moo or oink like cows and pig, but grains and vegetables and other plant-based food are alive to at one point, and it is only natural that we appreciate them by not casually throwing them in the trash can over some little bruises or wilt. There are ways to convert your organic waste such as making them into compost or feed them to animals, but if those options are not viable for you you can always buy and eat only what you need. 

The hardest part for me is to remember to say thank you after every meal, or at least before I go to bed. There are times when I will feel the world is against me, or that I hate the world so much. During those time, all I need is some good food and the world will feel so much better instantly. As a matter of fact, food is what keeps life worth living. For that dear food, and also for the fact you've been keeping me alive all this years, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you!

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