Following my experiment in consumption earlier in the week and the proceeding discussion of food politics on Facebook, I decided to continue my exploration of taste and desire by comparing and contrasting the high-fat, highly-industrial burger meal by spending three days eating well-balanced, nutritious vegetarian meals. The difference is tremendous.
In my average, daily diet here at college I do not consume a great deal of meat to begin with. My only meat comes from either the pepperoni pizza I eat occasionally or turkey or fish in a sandwich. To go three days without this food was not too much of a challenge. Instead of getting the chicken and chicken gravy in the shepherds pie, for instance, I opted out of both of those and replaced it with a delicious potato and leek soup.
The following two days, I satisfied my cravings for something heavy and dense in my stomach — such as a burger or some other sort of flesh, per se — with a lot of complex carbohydrates from grains or whole grain bread. Beyond this, milk was an adequate source of protein and nourishment. One evening, I had egg salad. Some vegetarians would dispute that eating an egg is non-vegetarian and carnivorous; my response is that I am an experimenter and in no way a purist.
To summarize my diet of the past several days, I enjoyed big bowls of fresh spinach leaves and other greens and colored vegetables that I ate raw and, generally, with my hands. No dressing is required to bring out the full, bold and earthy flavor of spinach. On my brown rice I used olive oil and added a few veggies. This was completely satisfying, easy on the stomach, and incredibly healthy. I did not miss meat in the least.
Last night I broke my three day journey into the vegetable life when I encountered ham salad at our deli bar here on campus. This is a rarity. When I was little my mom would made ham salad quite often for my lunches to be spread on sandwiches. I really enjoy the combination of mayo, ham, and relish. Unable to resist, I had it on my sandwich. My enjoyment of the meat came only in the value of nostalgia; I could remember the times in the past and the fond feelings towards my mother, her cooking, and being a kid. The ham by itself was sub par.
Another one of my favorite foods as a kid was bacon. One morning while coming back from a few days lodging in Bar Harbor, my family stopped at a breakfast buffet. I was so overwhelmed with the options that I loaded more than a pound of bacon into my bowl and went back to our table, intent on eating it all. Not only did I feel dehydrated a little ways into the meal, I was sick to my stomach and not even the combined appetite of the four of us could finish it off. I felt terribly wasteful. I’ve cleaned my plate and taken only what I can knowingly eat ever since.
Remembering this, I tried some bacon this morning and ate it slowly, thoughtfully, and inquisitively. Nothing. As my friend commented: “translucent” flesh and fat. Salt. There was almost nothing worthwhile in it. While bacon is not as pervasive as McDonald’s, for instance, there is a similar hype about it. That savory feeling in the mouth comes when images of bacon are on television or in print. Even just discussing the smell of bacon is sure to make one hungry.
To finish off my survey of food qualities, before writing this I ate a bag of Lay’s kettle cooked chips, the Jalapeno variety. Kettle chips are one of my weaknesses. I prefer brands other than Lay’s, but I figured that these would do. On the back of the bag, I noted the presence of MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) in the flavor powder coating the chips. MSG embodies the fifth flavor picked up by the human tongue, called Umami or “Savory”. It took me about fifteen minutes of intermittent snacking to finish off the bag. As I neared the end, my mouth felt otherworldly; my salivary glands were in high gear. All of my mouth was tingling and my gums felt inflamed. The savory flavor so embodied by MSG had overtaken my taste receptors and the flavor of every other ingredient to create a wild explosion of saliva and confusion.
The Findings: I am going to permanently reconsider my choices as I am dining. While I have been interested in nutrition for the past year or two, learned myself in some basics of organics, health foods, food additives, and other key components relevant to our modern diet, it just isn’t enough.
I will not align myself with any restrictive food ideology beyond my own, be it vegetarian, vegan, or any of the multitude of diet plans being sold on the market. I can feel clearly that burgers and a bowl of spinach affect me in distinctly different ways, and will use this instinct to eat as much as I can, rather than buying into the consumer market.
My hard earned money and yours ought not to support corporate giants who use food as a means of control and domination. A dangerous loss of culture, health, and liberty all result from buying into the lifestyle of soda, fast-food, and Western convenience. While I cannot escape the system, by being knowledgeable and open-minded in my choices, I can combat it, do my little part and be healthy within it until the day when we can all farm our own food.