Opinions, Column

Down the Delicious Rabbit Hole

“Eat me? Alright, but goodness knows what this will do … ” 

Unlike Alice, I do know what it will do and I do not, in fact, have to listen to some random, disembodied command (read: social media, older generations, or European folks, or a cookie) to eat anything if I do not want to. But more accurately, I also do not have to listen to some random, disembodied command telling me not to eat the things that I enjoy. 

Like Alice in the mythical land of Wonderland, food is an avenue to finding out who I am. Alice found out that she does not particularly like being neither big nor small. Alice Size is the perfect size for Alice. But my identity does not boil down to the size of my body. 

Over the past year I have spent month after month trying new snacks from different countries because of a relatively new invention of a monthly subscription box called Universal Yums. I have kept track of and recorded empirical data on my general opinions of the snacks I’ve tried and shared with friends from this subscription box.

There are a few main considerations I take into account when trying a new snack: the country of origin, the type of snack it is (chips, cookies, candy, etc.), and flavor profile (umami, bitter, sweet, etc.)—all of which determine a rating out of ten (zero being the worst tasting and 10  being the best). The ultimate goal of this tedious tradition is to figure out what kind of snack I generally prefer and what this means for me as a person. And the results are in: I love food. 

I used to believe that if I were in Alice’s dainty shoes struggling to enter a rather passive-aggressive door and given the opportunity to eat a cookie inscribed with the words “Eat Me,” I’d jump at the chance. The data, however, shows that I tend to prefer salty and umami foods over sweet things, especially cookies. So maybe I wouldn’t necessarily “jump” for a cookie, but perhaps if I’m in the mood to try something new—and of questionable origin—then I’d give it a go. And that is the life of the intuitive eater. 

More importantly, I believe that the action of trying new things with people that you love is a special chance to bond and create lasting memories. And for me, trying new foods is a surefire way to indulge in the spontaneity and curiosity that often gets trampled by school, work, stress, and responsibilities. Turns out, eating a strawberry licorice stick from Scandinavia and narrowly missing the trash as I immediately spit it out (because it was probably the most repulsive thing I’ve ever eaten) definitely made me forget about the B+ I got on a paper that one time two semesters ago. Although I gave that snack a zero rating, I found that I am someone who prefers to live in the moment, good or bad, rather than ruminate about the past. 

This stunning revelation would not have otherwise been possible had I continued following the culture I grew up within. Thin was in and that was that. I placed so many restrictions on what I could do or eat that I did not even realize that I was missing half of my own identity. I restricted my eating and in turn I restricted my potential to try new things and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. And for what? To appear happy when I wasn’t? 

Since realizing that I deserve to be able to pursue the things that make me happy, my palate has grown and I’ve tried cooking various new things and subsequently sharing them and eagerly collecting the memories from these moments over and over. Food is a way to connect with others and an invitation to try new foods together is an invitation to share an experience with me that I will cherish. 

With this, my body has changed. And instead of reflecting the rather antiquated beliefs of older folks of what my body is supposed to look like, I can cherish my body for what it has brought me through. Alice spent her entire time in Wonderland doing two things: eating things she probably shouldn’t have and explaining to various people who she isn’t rather than who she is. I may not have sat at the Mad Hatter’s Unbirthday Party, gotten lost in the Cheshire Cat’s forest, or ran away from the Queen of Hearts, but I have experienced 20 years’ worth of good and bad. My body reflects the strength I have from years of trusting it to tell me what to do and how to train. It reflects trial and error, doing new things, and a rather scientific approach to the simple task of eating. To think I need to throw that all away to satisfy those who do not live in my own body seems mad. 

So, I know what will happen if I eat an ominous cookie. Chances are I won’t enjoy it as much as black pepper and prosciutto bread bites, but I can appreciate the unique flavor it has. I can share it with my friends and live in the moment. And later, I can thank my body for giving me the tools to experience life to the fullest extent I can.

Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab/ Heights Editor

January 30, 2022

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