Most of what gets served in restaurants isn’t food—it’s a nice-smelling, well-presented simulation.
I’m certainly no paleo diet purist, but I eat far more meat, eggs, and vegetables, and far less grains and starches, than most. Over time this has caused me to prepare more and more of my own food, as what is served at restaurants becomes less and less appealing. A mountain of bread and pasta I can buy myself for two bucks if I wanted to, which I don’t? $22 + tax and tip for a steak I can pick out myself for $7 and guarantee it’ll actually be cooked blue rare? Meh.
Anyway: I had just finished a book signing, someone had recommended a local restaurant to me, and it had been several years since I’d eaten actual Szechuan cuisine—so I decided to check it out.
It was indeed excellent…but now that I’ve been eating paleo for some time, I realized that I had an entire multi-course meal before me, made almost entirely of non-food. And despite cleaning my very large plate, I found I was still very hungry…because what I was eating wasn’t food at all, just something that looked pretty and smelled nice.
- Hot and sour soup? Probably the best part. It has a little food value from the mushrooms and dissolved fat in the stock, but it’s barely enough calories to power my walk back to the car.
- Vegetarian egg roll? That’s not food at all…it’s gluten saturated with grain oil, surrounding a few lonely scraps of oil-soaked carrot and cabbage.
- Won ton? Same thing, but without the carrot and cabbage. A completely food-free substance.
- ‘Szechuan beef’? OK, beef is food, and some of the vegetables with it are food…but all the beef on my plate would fit in a shot glass, it’s swimming in a lake of industrial lubricant (grain oil) and corn syrup, and it sits atop a mountain of…
- White rice—which has the nutritional value of Coca-Cola and an even higher glycemic index. [Though no fructose, as Walter points out…indeed, since I wrote this article, I have added occasional white rice to my diet. -JS]
Essentially, I have before me a very pretty, well-spiced, and carefully presented food simulation. It’s tasty, in the same way candy is tasty—but it’s not satisfying, for the same reasons candy isn’t satisfying, which is that candy is not food. It’s empty calories…
…and so is this beautiful “dinner” I’ve just eaten.
I drive home and fix myself some real food.* And, as if to underscore the point, I spend the next day farting like a cow until all the pretty but nutritionally useless non-food has left my system.
Live in freedom, live in beauty.
(* That night “real food” meant grass-fed hamburger, eggs, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and a small potato, fried in butter.)