Half of Everything Is Control

I am currently eating some biscuits. I can do that: I can eat some biscuits. I probably won’t: I will probably eat the whole packet, and that will be that. I will feel no remorse, but I will be a little more full than I would prefer this close to lunch time. I am dunking them in coffee, which is less than ideal, but I didn’t want a cup of tea. For me, tea is the best vessel for the dunking of biscuits. No doubt.

I find dunking biscuits – particularly the kind I am dunking at the moment: two dry biscuits with a layer of buttercream between – incredibly moreish. Having a few is great. I have wrapped up the packet before I have had the first one. I then, once I have had four or five of them, reach for the packet and have another round. Once the packet looks more than half empty I know I will eat them all. For some people this can only be described as a lack of control. I disagree, at least for me.

I have a large appetite, and I am happy to indulge it. I am not thin by any stretch, but I am not a big fat man. I perhaps have been, but not for quite some years. If I am eating food that I like, and there is more of it, I will likely continue eating it. This does not strike me as a universal attitude.

Some people eat to live; others live to eat. I would likely put myself in to the latter category, but not all the way. I do think about things other than food. Some people think about nothing but food, and they begin to have a negative relationship with it. Some people see food as a bad thing, even though they are utterly mesmerised by it. They are powerless to resist the pull of a packet of crisps.

Luckily for me, I have never been one of those people. Taken too far it can be life-threatening, and that is not on my to-do list for this lifetime. My concern is with a different group of people, but we will come to all of that in due course. First, I feel the need for a detour: a tangent, if you will.

The people I will never understand are the ones for whom food has no meaning; the ones who can forget to eat; the ones for whom food is just a means to an end, rather than the opportunity for myriad wonderful little experiences. Those people, however, are highly unlikely to feel any remorse after consuming a full packet of Fox’s Crunch Creams. If they have done so, it was a physical need, and that is that. They will carry on with their tasks, and think no more about it, thank you very much.

The other side of control is revulsion. I see the same people who need to eat the full packet of biscuits, and then feeling a tidal wave of guilt and shame afterwards, as being the same people who will not try new foods. They seem to take issue with unfamiliar foods. Because I came across the idea during school-age camping trips I associate the behaviour with children. I find it irrational.

Food is not important. I say this as someone who has been planning the recipe for tonight’s meal for more than a month. Food may not just be fuel, but it is not the centre of existence either. There are far far worse things in life than ordering a dish in a restaurant which you don’t particularly enjoy.

Likewise, not particularly enjoying some food is not a reason to screw your face up in to a mask of disgust and claim that you hate it. It is not to your taste, and that is absolutely fine. Learning to eat things which you don’t find particularly enjoyable is a very useful life skill to develop. It saves a whole lot of food waste, for one thing. It gets you out of any number of social situations, for another.

Food is very important; food is not important: make your mind up, for goodness’ sake, Richard. OK.

Life is a varied thing, and foods are a part of that. We all love certain foods, and we seek them out. We may even choose to gorge on them, and there is nothing wrong with that. We cannot let food ruin the day, either because we have eaten too much, or because we didn’t enjoy what we had.

So much of our attitude to food is a response to the way in which our species has evolved, and the tricks our bodies have needed to develop in order to survive the hardships that this planet has thrown at us. Evolution governs the way humans process food, and we cannot change that.

A lot of the rest is just us: we live in a complicated world, which has come about so much faster than our bodies can evolve. We have not adapted to this environment, and so we are not optimised for it. We are responding to media, and to abundance, and to our changing bodies, and we do not always get it right. We have very little direct control over our needs, and we should all learn to accept that.

The people who are truly tormented by food have my deepest sympathy. Food is not the real issue; I doubt that society is either. We need to support them through it, and then we can all eat together.

I have finished my packet of biscuits, and I am feeling pretty pleased with myself. Not only were they a joy to eat, but they remained dunkable, even after my coffee had stopped being ferociously hot. I feel no remorse, and know that I will still be able to eat my lunch. I do regret making a cup of coffee, rather than tea, but I need to get over that. And I need to get the rest of that caffeine in to me.

I suppose what I am aiming for in all of this is the fact that I do not get fussy eaters. If I am ordering food in a restaurant – particularly if it is my first visit there – I will always try to order something I have never had before. This is not to gloat, and I have not always been this way: I used to be very fussy indeed. And then I realised I wanted to eat odd things. They were lovely, so I continued.

I used to fear meat with bones in, but now they are my favourite food: even a comfort food in the case of chicken wings. I used to fear fish, and then I fell in love with Sushi. It was so much better than the idea in my head would ever allow it to be. I also enjoyed whale and smoked puffin. As the world shrinks we will all be offered new experiences from all directions. Let’s be excited by them. Please.