The Ambivalence of Eating Well

The most action in our office today: my fast-moving officemate (the one who unplugs my computer everyday with his happy feet) is making wine in the bathroom in a huge plastic tub which smells, oddly and unfortunately, like fish. “We need one of those Piso Mujato signs,” J says behind me.

“What?”  I say.

“One of those yellow wet floor triangles.”

I should have learned Spanish in grade school–it's much harder to do it now.

There is a lot of sloshing around coming from the open door like elephants bathing with a water hose.  Still the fish smell.

I am researching the ambivalence of meat-eating, and just found out that humans and the meat we eat have the same biochemical composition, meaning that meat completes us better than any other foods.  Which some people think is kind of gross because that means when we have steak, we really are what we eat, like toned-down cannibals.  I see hunting as a live harvest, a way of having our part in the animal kingdom, so I'm ok with my omnivorousness.  But I'm not eating much meat these days for other reasons.

Ironically, (after I started working as an editor at a national food magazine) I found out I am MSG-intolerant.  The free meals I get at nice places have to be stripped down to foods I could make in ten minutes at home, which makes me feel both snooty and deprived.  But MSG is only a flavor-enhancor in Chinese food, you say?

No, it just hides under different names: maltodextrin, citric acid, and any kind of soy, yeast, or wheat “protein” are processed products the body ingests the same way as it would monosodium glutamate.  It's in canned vegetables to neutralize that tinny taste, but you'd never find it on a label.  It's in most things low-fat, and everything like gum, yogurt, and diet sodas that contain aspartame.  Almost anything I eat at a restaurant or out of a box feels like I have a tangle of mean fists in my stomach trying to punch their way out.

I asked my doctor why I didn't feel any of these reactions til just now, and she said, “Your body has probably just had enough.”

Ah, moderation: the lesson I can't learn, an edict hunter-gatherers abided by much better.  Just as kids are better at gathering words, it's harder as an adult with all these opportunities and abundances to eat the right things.  We ordered kits for 8 types of cheeses, 5 gallons of beer, and 30 bottles of wine.  We will finish them all and feel sick.

There was just a loud OOPS from the bathroom.  Lots of rattling, and banging around now. I learned last week, while ladling white vinegar into 185 degree milk, it's really hard to make simple, good things from scratch.

The most recent occurrence of my food intolerance is that if I come into contact with a processed food, and then I touch my face, my body reacts by producing a huge white hive on my temple, chin, or wherever it is I have inadvertently placed my hand.  Which then turns red, itches, and sticks around as a reminder to not touch whatever that mystery processed toxin was ever again.

What else about meat?  It takes skill to hunt, but it's also a grotesque act.  Animals are cute, but they're also delicious. MSG is the spices you find on grilled chicken and in hamburgers–food distributors do not have to label MSG unless it's added in its raw form.  Some crops are even sprayed with it.  It makes our products taste more “natural” because we have taken nutrients out of even animals and soil.

Unless you eat really raw food.  This is what I'm doing at home and at work.  At home, we eat mostly elk and salmon, sprinkled with the dwindling herbs of mine that haven't died.  At work, as we make our own cheese, wine, beer, and kombucha, we log our struggles and strengths.

Another coworker said, “Ew.  You're making cheese?  I buy cheese at the store, but it kind of freaks me out that you're making it here.”

My cheese came out bland, but some of us ate it with salt and pepper. We needed some MSG.