Food is for both nourishment and enjoyment. The physical existence of living organisms is sustained by food. Animals–both lower and higher (i.e., human)–rely on food for physical sustenance necessary to do activities, both productive and leisurely. Food is, therefore, necessary stuff of life. Life may be reckoned in various ways and means but without food, it is doomed to perish. And food depends on the species that avails and partakes of it. In other words, a kind of stuff which is food for a species may not be food but rather a poison for another.
Focusing our attention on the animal world, it is only the higher form, i.e., homo sapiens sapiens, who has the capability to process food in various ways. Like their lower form counterparts, humans eat raw foods like fruits and vegetables. But unlike them, humans are equipped with a highly evolved brain capable of concocting a variety of food ingredients and come up with a dish that is not only cooked to satisfy hunger but whose palatable taste gives delight to the hungry consumer.
Under normal circumstances (i.e., in a healthy state), we humans are insatiable eaters. Our appetite demands so much that we want variation in our food intake. In fact, hundreds of thousands of recipes have been prepared, tested and made into actual dishes by thousands of traditional cooks, celebrated chefs and gourmets, published in tens of thousands of cookbooks made available in thousands of bookstores all over the world. Food concoctions have developed and evolved into exquisitely delectable dishes through generations and ages in various parts of the modern world. In the process, a new aesthetic field has been added to modern culture: culinary art.
In a lot of instances, spices are the secret of savory dishes. Among the most common ones in a typical kitchen pantry are garlic powder, chili powder, ground ginger, dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried thyme, smoked paprika, curry powder, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black peppercorns, vanilla extract, and of course, salt. Add to the list taste-enhancing liquid blends like soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and Worcestershire sauce among others. Expert chefs are the master mixers of spices and in every cooking event, what they primarily have in mind is the satisfaction of their prospective consumers’ palates. Putting themselves in such a demanding condition, they are not only competing with the others of their kind; they likewise compete with themselves and in the process, continually improve their expertise towards higher refinements. This makes culinary art an exciting and challenging field of professional interest.
Good food is therefore associated with the good life. In this connection, people in the comfort of their stable condition are generally the ones who can fully understand how the good life is associated with good food. Partying is a common event among them and their discriminating attitude towards food and drinks is more expressed in a parlance that is seemingly exclusive to them. They are the certified judges of their class identity. In an exorbitantly budgeted party, guests mill around an expensive array of specially prepared cuisine on a long table.
However, taking this line of thought is just one side of the story. Corollary to this is the other side that in reality, life in this world is not all good. A big chunk of the populated Earth is home to disadvantaged people whose conditions are besieged by the forces of oppression, violence, even death. What we see in this situation are emaciated bodies of victims of inhumanity. Men, women, and children at the brink of death because of hunger and sickness. These are human beings who have long been forgotten by those who enjoy the good life. The good life is so anesthetizing that they who have long been enjoying it doesn’t care at all about the sufferings of those on the other side of the planet. These are human beings who do not ask for delectable cuisine but simple food that could fill their empty stomachs.
In almost all instances, these are victims of destructive wars exported to their geographical areas by the powerful nations of the west where their citizens enjoy the amenities of the good life. We have seen these hungry and sick victims of imperialist wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, among others. These are people who have lost their sense to distinguish between good food and otherwise. What they wish to have in the kind of hapless situation they have been experiencing is not to enjoy delicious food but to satisfy their hunger even with the simplest nourishment they could avail of.
We have been so engrossed with the good food we regularly enjoy at home, at expensive restaurants and exclusive parties that we have actually forgotten the reality that there are hungry human beings in war-torn countries whose aggressors our respective governments support so actively in terms of logistics, personnel, and armaments. These are no big deal matters to us simply because we do not care.
Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 29 May 2019