Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wasting food is a virtue

Most of the restaurants my parents took me to as a kid had free refills on soda and I found myself ending up in the same situation time after time.

I would get a soda during the appetizer phase and slowly sip it. I would try to pace myself, but fail, and it would be gone by the time my meal arrived. The waitress would see I'm out when she delivered my plate and bring me another one. After I finished eating and had no appetite left, I'd have two-thirds of a soda left and I'd force myself to finish it.

Why? Because I was told it's wrong to waste food.

People have a religious opposition to wasting food in America. Throughout the history of civilization starvation has been a major problem and there are still people in other parts of the world who go hungry. In those situations, one should see knowingly wasting food as an act of savagery.

But that has nothing to do with choosing to finish a glass of orange soda over allowing the waitress to throw it away. Soda is notoriously unhealthy and I was so stuffed that drinking it was unpleasant. I thought I was doing something noble.

But when one eats or drinks something just to avoid throwing it away, they are treating their body as a garbage can.

Food is plentiful and cheap in America, and the country has an obesity problem. I could stand to lose 20 pounds myself. Ideally, people should stop eating before they are full. That's why it pains me to see adults in a social situation plotting to eat unwanted surplus guacamole to save it from becoming trash. They have decided to become human compost heaps.

Food should never be eaten when one is not hungry, does not desire it, will not benefit nutritionally from it and is not socially obligated to try it, such as food prepared by an insistent host at a party.

Right now I have some cooked rice soaking in a beaten egg and soy sauce in my refrigerator. It's one of several things that I'm not sure I'll be able to eat before it goes bad. However, what I'm not going to do is eat extra meals to avoid the sin of letting food spoil.

The pushback I usually get from people when I try to break them of their food sacredness is that we shouldn't be taking on this much food to begin with and portion control will keep us from having to waste food.

Well, yes, we should. Prevention is usually the best solution for any problem, but what do we do when it's too late and the mashed potatoes are lingering on our plate but we won't be able to take any leftovers to the performance with us?

Throw it out and be gone with it, then smile at yourself for having the integrity to buck tradition. When I waste surplus food I am prioritizing my own health over a cultural obligation to dead plants and cooked meat. In a society that overeats, the ones who reject eating unwanted food show true virtue.

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