The highest hospitality, to me, is the offering of food. The most efficient way of creating comfort, food makes parties, it produces pleasure, and is, generally speaking, a sure-fire hit. Ethnic parents offer their children food not just in an attempt to fatten them, but because it’s a way of showing love (Proper ethnic parents, the type who cure their own meats and eat “lunch” at 3pm)
Needless to say eating is necessary for survival; however it’s so much more than that. Even the most clinical person- those who aren’t prone to the spasms of appetite and who sometimes forget to eat (DO YOU FORGET TO SLEEP?), find in eating an effective, simple comfort. You might try to soothe someone with your words, but it’s much easier, and, more effective, to offer them chicken soup.
Ponder, for pleasure’s sake, the tasty spaghetti with a Bolognese meat sauce. The fried chip, crunchy on the outside, piping hot soft potato softness within inside, the Moorish tray of chocolate brownie- dark, and smooth and melting bellied. The roast chicken, a charred pan wafting its sweet aroma through the house, crisp skin and tender mean within. Each of these provides pleasure, sure-fire pleasure. You can easily plan good eating. On the other-hand, it’s hard to count on nice conversation, or a good movie or a fun day out (here’s my masculine pick for this winter) When these go wrong, it can be bad. But most food-surprises are good surprises (case in point)
Consider the working man who has just returned home. His brow contorted with concern, his mind tired. Consider his ‘poignant’ and ‘special’ problems. The boss with his reckless demands, his early start tomorrow, his troubles heaped upon him. Then give that man a steak and some chips. He eats, and, hot shower later – he is content to sit in serenity and calm. Give a man something to eat and a warm bed, and all of his “very serious and important problems” can seem less severe.
However, it’s becoming increasingly hard to see this. For there exists a strange and puritanical modern sentiment these days. Namely, that we have to feel worse before we can allow ourselves to feel better. Have you noticed all the crying on The Biggest Loser?
Freud said that the tyranny of repressed desire corrupts enjoyment. He’s right. But you don’t need to explore your weird perversions to be healthier. Everyone just need a hug and a sandwich. (seriously though, please don’t explore the perversions)
It’s true that people eat their feelings along with their food. That isn’t good, we should talk out our problems, take a few deep breaths, think about what we’re really feeling, etc. etc.
However, the idea that we should withhold permission to enjoy ourselves is similarly messed. Pleasure hasn’t made people fat. It’s the sick theory that we should sometimes eat with guilt that is most counter-productive. People have stigmatized eating with talk of ‘naughty’ food. Some diet shows made chocolate sound like crack.
I insist (as does Nigella Lawson) that if we allowed ourselves to wallow a little, we’d be less messed up. Pleasure is not the problem. Eating isn’t just a social convention, it is restorative and comforting. And while it’s ludicrous to claim, even for story-telling purposes, that a disappointing food experience in Australia is a ‘problem’ in any legitimate sense (It’s Syria that has the problems) we should still recognize that it’s wrong to feel bad about taking pleasure. Everything is good until you make it bad. So eat your sandwich.