The Ultimate Goal

By FoodNerd April 7, 2009

It was inevitable.  Eating for pleasure has to have its limits, and my recent dental emergency has signaled the need for a sea change.  Or, at least, a hiatus from many of the things I love: Bacon, roast chicken, eggs, red wine, espresso, baked current doughnuts, macaroni and cheese, milkshakes, and of course, cheeseburgers.  It’s been like enduring the aftermath of a breakup.

Step One—The Romanticizing Phase:  Just like that early stage in a breakup when you convince yourself (and anyone else kind enough to listen) that there really were good moments in the now defunct pairing, I found myself longing for all that I could not have. Driving slowly by the cheeseburger place.  Going out of my way to pass my favorite bakery.  Fantasizing about the taste of an espresso mingled with the crumbs of a brioche.

Step Two—The Resentment Phase:  Anger kicks in with you either annoyed with your ex for wasting your time or with yourself for not recognizing the end earlier.  Of course, said anger—though seemingly constructive—renders you paralyzed.  Similarly, there were moments this week where I felt so annoyed about being “denied” what I wanted that I didn’t want to eat at all.  When I did eat
, rather than enjoying my choice, I focused, instead, on what was missing.

Step Three—The Newfound Focus Phase:  You are finally free to reflect on what you need to do to more forward.  Your eyes open, and you can see your surroundings more clearly.  By the middle of the week, I began walking through the produce area of grocery stores with more purpose, appreciating the arrival of spring vegetables.  I started to check Heidi Swanson’s wonderful whole foods cooking web site 101 Cookbooks on a daily basis to find recipes while treating Jessica Porter’s The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics 
as my bedtime reading.  (Though the title invites cynicism, Porter’s writing is entertaining, and the book is an excellent resource for reminding you about how food works—as an ingredient, a source and a form of pleasure)

Step Four—The Return of Pleasure Phase:  You’re near nirvana when you reach this point.  The nostalgia and anger are gone, and you now spend your time appreciating all that’s around you.  By the weekend, I was knee-deep in vegetables, reveling in the differences between red chard and lacinto kale, playing with how each responded to sautéing and determining which would best 
mix with brussel sprouts while a line of asparagus stems roasted in the oven.  Realizing, amidst chopping, stirring and sampling bits, that I was content.  Sated.

And sated is the ultimate goal, after all—be it food or love.  No longer worried about what came before or distracted by what is missing.  Simply enjoying what is around you.  Wanting what you have and having what you want.
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