The question posed by my friend at a recent outing to Tory Row has haunted me over the past few days. Am I a little more than an obsessive foodie?
How much of your enjoyment in life do you get from food? Is it like 90%?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how little I care about the food itself. To put it in simplest terms, I like food because I like talking to people. Wherever I go, I can compare notes on local restaurants, new recipes, or food science facts. I enjoy talking to local businesses as I organize Science Cafes and various food science events. I'm just as comfortable chatting with vegans about the controversy over raw foods as I am conversing with omnivores about how to cook the perfect short rib. I have as much fun drinking PBR with my former classmates as I do when I have some of the best cocktails in Boston.
I'm fascinated by the sociology of food. Eating habits can be a window into a person's psyche. The dining hall at Dudley is a menagerie of food-related rituals: the friendly conversations with the sandwich man, the stressed-out students nibbling on grapes and drinking Diet Soda, the group of friends walking over together from lab, the hurried workaholics who rush out the door with their brown bag lunches to sit in front of a computer, and so on. My unofficial personal trainer in the gym urges me to eat more and try protein supplements. At lunch that day, I end up sitting with some dorm-mates who talk about dieting and skipping dinners.
What type of drink would you like? Beer? Wine? A cocktail? Fruity, dry?I have no idea how to respond to the bartender's question. I can't think of any intrinsic preferences. As Bourdain has shown, drinking is a nearly global form of bonding and I value the resulting conversations and insights far more than the beverage itself.