Confession: I could really get into watching the Food Network.
Last week I inadvertently found myself sitting in front of a large-screen version—in an x-ray waiting room, to be exact—and I watched, fascinated, as a mouth-watering beef stew and an espresso ice cream took shape.
I’m enough of a foodie myself to care tremendously about flavor. Always wanting to improve my cooking, always on the hunt for new ideas, I can drool with the best of them over the crisp texture, the perfect consistency, the full flavor, and the smooth finish.
The ingredients in these new recipes enchanted me.
The stew contained chunks of the best chuck roast, a whole bottle of red wine for marinade, rosemary and bay leaves fresh from the garden, succulent mushrooms, potatoes and carrots sautéed together, sun-dried tomatoes…
The ice cream boasted rich half and half (three whole cups), real espresso, good vanilla, and crushed chocolate-covered espresso beans.
I watched as the textures and colors swirled on the screen.
Then, a discordant thought: This chef is incredibly obese.
Somehow this adds an alarming note to her obvious pleasure.
Another discordant thought: This show is actually—sensual.
I noticed the camera zooming in for a close-up; the careful capturing of the sauté sizzling, the foamy richness of beaten eggs.
C. S. Lewis writes on chastity in Mere Christianity, and along the way includes some fascinating remarks about food. Speaking about the sexual instinct gone awry, he says
“You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?
“…One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving… I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in face, much or little food was being consumed in that country… Nor is the hypothesis of ‘starvation’ the only one we can imagine. Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.”
So I am asking myself questions:
- Isn’t this exactly what has happened in America?
- Is the only reason I find the show offensive the fact that the chef is obese?
- Surely weight is not the only sign of infatuation with food? Nor being slender a sure sign of temperance?
- Surely rich foods are not the only food obsession?
I don’t know much about this topic. Please know that I am questioning the temperance of my own heart, not trying to tell you what’s happening in yours. I have four small things to say (to myself)–coming up next time.