August 13, 2015

What does it mean to feed people?

When I started culinary school, a weird thing happened. People started getting really twitchy about the food they liked around me. They'd start apologizing for liking Taco Bell or cut up Li'l Smokies in their mac'n'cheese or whatever.

But here's the thing. Food only needs to do two things to be good at being food, and therefor to be good food. It needs to nourish you -- to provide nutrients, including absolutely essential macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats, which you would die without -- and it needs to taste good to you. If it has calories, it satisfies the first requirement. If it pleases you in the moment you eat it, it satisfies the second requirement. That's it. That's all.

Yes, it is an excellent idea to eat a wide variety of foods with lots of different micronutrients, because those are important too. Yes, it is good to balance the proportions of the macronutrients you eat, although different people have different needs and different optimal levels of each. But calories are what keep you alive.

If the goal is to feed people, there is no better thing to do than to feed them something they will enjoy. Something that tastes good, that makes them feel good. If they have to choke it down because it doesn't taste good to them, they won't eat as much, and they won't be properly nourished physically. But food is also a source of joy, and that's nourishment, too. We need joy to live, almost as much as we need calories. So food should bring us enjoyment, the inception of joy.

So I tell people not to be ashamed of what they like to eat. I don't care how cheap it is, how low-class, how many artificial flavors and colors it has. If it tastes good and it fuels your body, that's good food.

Feed people. Feed people things they like and want to eat. Give them both nutrients and joy. Feed people.