Food Documentary Fall-Out and a New Chapter

photo 1 (2)A couple of weeks ago, on Food Riot, I wrote a personal article about the fall-out that comes from watching food documentaries. I actually call them “shockumentaries,” because that’s the objective, I think:  they present information, and present it in such a manner, that it’s meant to shock you, to invite you to consider new information and make changes. Truth be told, I had never watched a shockumentary, and after I watched my first one, called VegucatedI knew things wouldn’t be the same.

I was nervous writing the article for a number of reasons, but one was because of the personal fall-out that’s resulted in me. After I processed the information with Amanda, and I made the journey from emotional response – shock, shame, anger – to a more pragmatic one, I felt I had to make a decision. I saw things in that documentary that I can’t un-see. I didn’t want eat meat. This isn’t because I see anything inherently wrong with eating meat; rather, I love meat, and I can’t stand to participate in the devaluation of life and nourishment that currently exists in our food system. So Amanda and I decided to be vegetarians, and I have to say, it’s feeling good. It hasn’t been a big challenge, just a shift in our focus.

But with that new label comes a new, or at least shifted, identity. It’s interesting how, as people invested in food, cooking, and food culture, we tie our identities to who we are as eaters. I told a friend the other day that I feel pigeon-holed by a reputation as an epic eater. I felt like the chubby kid in my family when I was growing up. I was the girl who kept a 3lb tub of cookie dough under her bed. I was the girl who snuck food and would always go back for seconds (or thirds). I ate dessert first at church potlucks, then went through the regular food line, and then went back for a second dessert; a youth pastor had joked that by eating dessert first, then if you died during the meal, at least you had the best part. It made good sense to me.

My friend corrected me on this. To her, and she was willing to bet that to most of my friends, I’m not an “epic eater.” I’m a cook and a nurturer. I felt relieved. I have mostly managed to shake that old identity, one I had hoped to shake as an adult. But it still echoes in me, and it makes a declaration like this one a little unsettling.

And it doesn’t escape me that, just this month, I published a post on this blog about cruising the meat case at Whole Foods for therapy. I still think a well-stocked meat case is a beautiful thing. I love food – all food. I just realize I needed to make a change.

In my article on Food Riot, I note that we, as humans, as citizens of this world, are dynamic, ever-changing beings. As eaters, we are dynamic, ever-changing beings as well. As a child I hated a lot of vegetables; as an adult, I like them. Our agency over who we are and what we choose to eat and how we choose to live is what makes each of our stories unique, organic to us. It’s what makes our stories interesting.

I’ve been blogging at Whisks & Words for almost three years, and I’ve learned to cook meaningfully on this blog. I’ve learned basics of seasonal eating, local eating. I learned how to cook whole foods, vegetables out of the ground, still covered in dirt. I’ve grown as a person, and you’ve been here for the journey.

This is a new leg of the journey, and I’m excited about it. I’m excited to make healthy, positive changes. I’m excited to process through those changes here on these pages. It’s a new chapter of the Whisks & Words story, and as ever, I’m happy to share it with you.

5 thoughts on “Food Documentary Fall-Out and a New Chapter

  1. i loved this article on food “shockumentaries,” because indeed, that’s exactly what they are and what their purpose is. and rightly so, to some degree, because humans tend to change behaviors when they have visceral reactions to things. I echo your thoughts about meat almost exactly: i love meat, but it’s difficult to see how we come by it in this country and be okay with throwing money into the industry, and in a way, encouraging it.
    although i always hesitate to call myself a vegetarian (b/c i do eat it occasionally and i wouldn’t want to insult actual vegetarians by saying i never eat meat, ever), i totally applaud amanda’s and your decision to become vegetarians, and i can’t wait to see how that manifests itself in your cooking. I feel like i could easily be a vegetarian b/c i tend to gravitate towards all the vegetables all the time, and i think it expands your cooking when you limit or restrict your diet to non-meat and non-animal products, for sure.

    1. Thanks, Shannon! I know, I had a hard time really claiming the label. But the transition hasn’t been difficult. I think, like you said, I tend towards vegetables and what not anyway. I’ve recently tried tofu and was surprised to find I liked it. And it will (and has) expanded my cooking to restrict one aspect. It’s a learning process, for sure, and I’m enjoying the process.

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