Thursday, April 23, 2009

What defines "good"?

I've been traveling quite a bit lately, which means my diet has been rather erratic. For one meal I'll have a salad or sushi while at the next I'm running to another event so I'll grab a bagel or a bag of chips. For the most part it's been fine and almost everything I've eaten I would describe as "good." But what is good food?

Does good mean nutritious? Tasty? Local? Quick? Comforting?

Yes. It means all of those and more. I believe that an honest definition of good food is broad and flexible with a few ground rules. I know this isn't a groundbreaking observation but I suspect accepting this definition may give us permission to treat ourselves with necessary kindness and therefore live healthier and tastier lives.

Ideally, good food is good for your body, spirit and community. It manages to sate the appetites of hunger and desire while not encouraging us to over-indulge because we're afraid that we won't be satisfied again any time soon. It nourishes our bodies while it stimulates our senses. It soothes the spirit with the ritual of cooking or the subtle message of our own worth by providing us with something that tastes good. It supports community by being shared, commented upon, talked about. We may even make lower impact choices, thereby helping our communities even more.

Many of the foods we choose can't meet these criteria every time. But if we try to choose mindfully, to eat good food when we can, we not only enjoy what we eat more, eating becomes an active part of living, not just something we have to do as we rush through our lives.

When I chose sushi or salad, a bagel or a bag of chips, if I took the time to enjoy the crunch of the chip it was as much good food as the salad. If I ate the glistening sushi without thinking, merely as something to tide me over, then it was only nourishment, not good food.

I know I won't succeed every time, or even most of the time. But when I take the time to savor my life everything tastes that much better.

(c) 2009 Laura S. Packer

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