“If I could take a pill instead of eating food, I would be very happy indeed.” That is what my father used to say. That was such a long time ago and when I was younger, I just brushed that statement off. But now I am horrified. How could he say such a thing?
Interestingly, my father didn’t dislike food all together. He was a fussy eater and I have no doubt my mother indulged him. I mean this is a man who loved his fried potatoes. The potatoes first had to be boiled, then cut into small pieces. Each piece had to be fried in butter and turned individually on very low heat until they were very crispy. This was never done by him but by my mother and later when I got older, by me. They were delicious I admit and every time I fry potatoes, I think of my father who sadly passed away many years ago. He also loved chocolate. He used to snap off a huge chunk (usually Lindt) and shove all of it into his mouth at once. The edges of the chocolate used to protrude from his cheekbones. He also loved sweets, cream, butter, steak and mum’s curry.
So how he could say he would be happy just taking a pill instead of eating, I will never understand. Perhaps it was because he was an impatient man and eating just took too much time.
I eat to live not live to eat.
I think that people who say this are just kidding themselves. What they don’t realise is how much of their lives revolve around food and drink. Family dinners and gatherings, weddings, meeting friends, parties, even funerals. They may not enjoy all the food but it’s always there bringing people together. Because at any given moment, one can say “gosh, that is truly delicious!”
My mother is Chinese and I could safely say that just about every occasion in her family involves eating. We don’t just celebrate the occasion, we celebrate the food we eat. I was in Hong Kong earlier in the year for a family reunion. One particular event (and yes it was an event) that stands out is a dinner we had in Sai Kung. We began our journey at the fish market. Our food was still alive and we were only half an hour away from eating it! But we didn’t do as the Aussies do and chuck it on the BBQ. No, the market delivered all our fresh seafood to our restaurant where, for HK$10 each, the chefs prepared it expertly. Prawns, fish, clams and seafood I didn’t even know the name of. The smell of garlic, ginger and shallots wafted in the air with every dish that was brought out. The best chilli and salt squid I have ever had. A perfect crunch in the mouth with every bite. Whilst the food was pretty damn good, it was just the culmination of an outstanding family bonding journey.
The round table with the lazy susan is another great Chinese idea. Apparently, the largest ones are sometimes electrically powered which slowly revolve throughout the meal. A slightly different take to eating at a revolving restaurant! Sharing food on a round table enables everyone not just to see each other but you can actually talk (or yell out Chinese style) to the person across from you.
The Spanish, too, know how to do food well. In San Sebastian (northern Spain), you can go bar and tapas (pintxos) hopping in the Old Quarter. What a feast for the eyes; you don’t know where to start, where to look. You land in one place, have a drink, try some of the tapas from the bar, pay and then hop on to the next place. And it’s all done based on an honesty system (it was 10 years ago so let’s hope it’s still the same); you let the barman know what you ate and he charges you accordingly. That’s it! I am sure that Spain is full of places like this but San Sebastian stands out for me as it was in a very concentrated beautiful area. So again, food is about having fun, about being social, about trying new things and about licking your fingers at the end.
My son enjoys his own form of tapas hopping. We were at the Terminus Hotel (mentioned in a previous blog) with my sister in law and her husband. We all ordered different meals so my son decided he wanted a taste of everyone’s. He made his way around the table, making comments with every bite. A mini food adventure.
So saying you can just take a pill and not eat really does not make sense. Whether or not you like what you are eating is almost irrelevant because it can still bring you together. You can spend the meal talking about how bad it all is, complain, get your money back and decide never to go again. Of course, it’s much better to go somewhere you like because good food makes you smile. And if you are like me, good food makes you talk less (my husband likes this!) because you don’t stop to take a breath until the end. This tends to happen a fair bit when I have my Pho at Bang Bang, our local Vietnamese.
Maybe it’s okay for astronauts to have a pill instead of eating but even then, what would they do with all the extra time they end up having? And half the fun of visiting the space museum is to discover their interesting and weird looking dehydrated foods. Taking a pill might solve the world hunger problem but then again it will take away so many livelihoods and traditions.
I hope nobody ever invents a pill-a-day to take instead of food.