The most important thing that food does

No matter how compelling the reason, refrain from discussing food choices on the meal table—it does little other than stealing away the joy from eating

“Are you going to eat that? I would never feed my body that kind of junk”

I was at lunch with a group of friends when Tanya said this to Priya.

Priya’s meal had just arrived and she had ordered a cheese pav bhaji. This was after she had wiped off a plate of French fries all by herself while the rest of us waited for our main courses to arrive.

Priya, who had made the apparently “unhealthy” meal choice flushed on hearing the remark. From the change in her expression, one could tell that she was wishing she could disappear into invisibility, just like the dollop of butter that was fast melting to become invisible in her food. Not knowing how else to respond, she looked down at her food and nibbled in silence till the end of our lunch.

Sadly, Tanya was oblivious of the damage she had done and went on to brag about her latest diet changes and why she had banished certain foods from her diet forever. So obsessed was she with driving home her point that our forlorn faces were lost on her. Possibly my other friends were now wondering how Miss ‘Health Freak’ would react when their orders were brought to the table and whether she would approve of their choices. Sigh! There went another potentially fun lunch meeting, thanks to one person’s unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.

Wrong words at the wrong time

Even though Tanya only had Priya’s best interests in mind [like we all have for our loved ones], her timing and tone were both wrong. Very wrong. Her harsh words and insensitivity would have harmed her friend more than any of the ‘unhealthy’ food she thought she was eating.

Let’s first get this out of the way. Sharing our knowledge and experiences is not wrong. In fact, it must be done as that’s what empowers us to make better choices. But we should be conscious of doing it in a sensible and sensitive way.

But don’t we all have that one friend, colleague or relative who goes into nutritionist- or crusader-mode at every opportunity they find and mostly it is during meal times? When I see these people giving advice that is not asked for, I’m left wondering whether they’re still trying to convince their own selves about their choices.

Food does much more than providing us with calories and nutrition. Each of us has a unique relationship with food. For some this relationship is sorted, while for others it’s complicated or still evolving. Add to it the information overload from the field of nutrition and changing trends in the health industry and things can get pretty convoluted.

The least we can do to maintain some sanity in these times of information overload is to keep our meal-times sacred and devoid of nutrition gyaan.

Food brings people togetherEat and let others eat

Food is big deal for most of us, yet meal times are the most ignored events, mostly done mindlessly. If you have to discuss the food, let it be about the taste, the flavour, the ingredients, the recipes… but keep all talk of nutrition, calories and food choices out! Once the food is on the table and you have decided you’re going to eat it, just shut up, enjoy your food and let others do the same. Resist the temptation of asking the vegan where he is getting his protein from or snidely reminding the non-vegetarian about the inhuman practices at factory farms. One of the most important thing food does is bringing people together. It gives us a chance to celebrate our similarities and differences. Let’s not use it as an opportunity to convert the other and bring them on “our side”.

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