You then immediately pour salt all over the dish, as a means of preventing yourself from eating the rest.
Is there a place for this kind of behavior?
Food destruction, vaguely, is the idea of literally rendering a plate of food inedible – by way of mustard, excessive salting, ketchup, okra snot, hot sauce, that strange silica gel stuff you find in shoe boxes or goodness knows what – so that you won’t consume the rest. This isn’t to be confused with the proper etiquette practices of placing your napkin or your silverware across your plate to notify the service that you’re finished with your meal, though.
Recently, Marie Claire spent a little time lambasting health bloggers (apparently, like myself) and questioning whether or not they encourage unhealthy habits, where food destruction was mentioned. Even though the Marie Claire article has its own large handful of problems, it did make me do a little more reading on the topic of food destruction. Not because I’m interested in destroying food now (Me? Destroy food? I’m too cheap for that.), but because I’m actually someone who can understand why someone would destroy food and as someone who has been there before, I can see it in a different light now.
One of the maligned bloggers, Heather, co-wrote the following on the topic of destroying food:
I usually put my napkin in my plate when I am done eating. Mark detests this and routinely removes the napkin from my plate. My hunch was that he wanted the leftovers under the napkin, so I started asking him whether he wanted it before I “napkin’d” the plate. The napkin signifies that I am done, kind of like an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. I learned that Mark perceived it as a type of food destruction; it made him feel uncomfortable for me, I think.
I am generally too cheap and too appreciative of food to destroy it, but I have (very recently) thrown away a whole batch of cookies because I could not stop going back for “just one more.” In a perfect world, I would have cookies, put away cookies, step away from cookies, and have a nice day. [Un]fortunately, I am not perfect.
In the same post her co-blogger, Mark, countered with the following:
If you have an unbridled sensation to eat everything in sight you might consider mixing your peas and mashed potatoes once in a while. Second thought, bad example; peas and mashed potatoes are a match made for my mouth. Let’s talk battery acid and hamburger meat instead.
Utterly destroying your food (in the literal sense, not in the “you dude, you just destroyed that steak” sense) might be a practical tool for some people who have bigger problems than… well, food destruction. Putting some rocks and sand into your Lobster Bisque to save your life isn’t madness, it’s just survival of the fittest.
However, if you’re an otherwise normal person I would suggest a dab of discipline over a dash of diaper meat. Don’t destroy your food.
He said more about food destruction being “a slap in the face to the poor and starving,” but I don’t really find that relevant to food that’s already been bought and paid for… unless there’s some restaurant allowing you to return a portion of your food so that you only pay a portion of the price… and the rest goes to starving children in third world countries. It’s just a weak attempt at guilt.
After watching that series on How Junk Food Affects The Body, I have the following question: If someone has allowed themselves to enter that wash-rinse-repeat cycle of “feeling bad, knowing [insert food name] will make me feel better, pursuing and eating said food, feeling good temporarily from the high, crashing from the high, feeling bad”… what would be so wrong with actually recognizing that you are in the middle of said cycle, and breaking the cycle mid-way?
I can think back to when I first started learning just how our brains react to sugar and how the brain’s response is similar to the response to heroin. I’d always say to myself, “Aw, it won’t be so bad,” as I tested the theory out by eating some crap I had no business eating… and sure enough, if it gave me that strange “Mmmmm” feeling, if it had too many chemicals in it, or if it had a few specific characteristics (like, being made at a large franchise, big company, or chain bakery)? I felt my control slipping away. I felt my inability to keep myself from continuing to eat it… and the only thing that’d keep me from continuing my complacency in the cycle would be to toss it. Sometimes, I’d just let it meet my favorite friend, Mr. Garbage Disposal.
I question Mark’s stance because it implies some element of will power, and I know that the chemicals in most food are put there to supersede our will power. It also implies that hunger is there for a reason and, while I don’t disagree with that, I also think we sometimes confuse hunger with craving.. and psychology (and, hell, marketing) even says that something as minute as a memory can trigger a craving that, for a lot of us, can be confused with hunger. They’re simply not the same.
Then again, maybe I’m not the “otherwise normal person” he’s referring to. Interesting… considering this definition of normal – “approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment” – and the fact that the average American is, essentially, overweight and may be suffering from the same issue.
When I cook at home, I have will power enough to determine my appropriate portions. When I dine out, I have to interfere some secondary way – like ordering a much smaller dish, or having the server take away half of it in advance. I’ve yet to destroy food like tossing hot sauce on cheesecake, but that’s because I no longer eat cheesecake often enough for it to matter. If I were placing myself in that kind of situation regularly, I can’t say it’d be that easy. That leads me to my next point.
My experiences with having to throw away food have taught me a valuable lesson that comes from a place where my excessive cheapness intersects my desire to make smart decisions. I used to forget that the aim of the game wasn’t to be able to eat what I wanted without penalty, and just fret about burning the rest later during some hellish bout with the treadmill… it was about developing the ability to say NO to the things my brain was once addicted to. If I am facing a situation where I run the risk of having to “tamper with my food” in order to maintain my level of self-control… I stop myself before I place my order. If I find myself messing with some ingredients to make something-I-have-no-business-eating, I stop myself, take a long drink of water, relax and step away. As someone who can admit that I was truly a sugar addict, I can approach my addiction from a place of awareness… and learn from the situations where I had to render my food inedible instead of continually putting myself in the position of having to turn my plate upside down and smash the creamy goodness underneath.
Of course it tastes delicious. It wouldn’t sell if it didn’t… but I know better. I know that the stuff inside messes with my head and if it’s going to cause me an inordinate amount of guilt? It soooooo isn’t worth the hit to my self-esteem to eat it. Food – namely, food that alters my ability to control myself – is not that deep. I’m glad I can say that now.
Having said all that… is food destruction a bad thing? If it operates as a cycle of guilt, then I can absolutely see that being a problem. If it’s a part of an epiphany that says “Maybe I shouldn’t order this any more if it’s going to trigger this ravenous reaction within me,” though? It might not be so bad.