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Pleasures of Food
By Sudha Hamilton
Published in WellBeing Magazine
I have always been passionate about food. It has, in fact, been a cornerstone of my existence. I recognised the signs early on, when I did not come off the bottle (alas breast feeding was out of vogue at this time) until I was about four years old, and I made quite a commotion about it then. That warm white milk spurting forth from that rubber teat was obviously a sensual and nourishing feed. Following that I remember a wonderful meal that mother used to make me, consisting of warm runny soft boiled eggs mashed up with torn crustless fresh white bread, the merest splash of milk and salt and pepper, mmmmm.
Ah food…it is a heady mix of psychological spells wound up in tasty matter. Foods that comfort us, foods that excite us and foods that calm us down. Our palate and our attachments to certain foods are I think all born of a time when we inhabited a yeasty humid world of milk sops and wet nappies. Textural considerations are of utmost importance when discovering dishes that provide us with inner sensual happiness: viscous soups and sauces, gooey eggs and soft steaming scoops of mashed potato, or balls of sweetened sticky rice and slippery steamed dim sum.
Eating food is pleasure and filling the empty tummy with something very scrummy is best. Pleasure. Is it a universal primary motivation? Or is it simply the avoidance of pain? Is hunger, once satisfied, the end of the matter? Or do we seek to enter that satiation by choosing just what we put in our mouths? The pursuit of pleasure: to achieve sensual gratification. Is it inextricably linked with our need for nourishment? Babies must have succour and must be touched to survive, and thrive to adulthood. Food in my opinion is not just fuel and not simply the sum of its parts. It is more than a list of kilojoules, fats, carbs and proteins. Like love it must be made pleasurable to do its work well.
Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) states: “The magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. When such pleasure is present, so long as it is uninterrupted, there is no pain either of body or of mind or of both together. The flesh receives as unlimited the limits of pleasure; and to provide it requires unlimited time. But the mind, intellectually grasping what the end and limit of the flesh is, and banishing the terrors of the future, procures a complete and perfect life, and we have no longer any need of unlimited time. Nevertheless the mind does not shun pleasure, and even when circumstances make death imminent, the mind does not lack enjoyment of the best life.” However, perhaps Oscar Wilde put it more succinctly when he said, “Pleasure is the only thing to live for.”