In this world, there are two types of people: people who eat to live, and people who live to eat. I have a friend, who we’ll call Mike, whose passion for food has reminded me of my own love affair with good food.
Mike is three years old and it’s a privilege to watch him while he eats. I smile when I see the delight that each mouthful brings, the apparent pleasure of eating new and delicious food written all over his face. At the beginning of each day, Mike tells his mom about his plans for the day, carefully listing all the activities he’s planning, always including a detailed list of all the meals he’s going to have, and what he’s hoping they’ll be. It was, therefore, no surprise that the thing he was most excited about on his recent trip to South Africa, was that on the plane he got ‘something to eat’. Also, when his grandma asked him what gift she could bring him, he didn’t ask for any toys. Oh no; without batting an eye, he asked for gin. But that’s a different story altogether.
One day, Mike went to a new playgroup and, understandably, his mom was a little nervous. Would Mike have a good time? Would he make new friends? During tea time, all the kids got pancakes. The pancakes were stacked on small plastic plates and the children were seated in groups of four, ready to share a plate. Luckily for my friend Mike, the rest of his group weren’t too interested in the pancakes (they probably eat only to live), and this gave Mike the opportunity to eat the whole plate of pancakes on his own, all the while looking back at his mom with the most content expression on his face. After the plates were cleared, all the other kids went back to playing, but before joining his new friends, Mike made his way around the table to make sure he got all the crumbs left on the table by the other careless eaters. His mom, it seems, had been worried for nothing. Mike made new friends, ate some pancakes, and had a good day out.
When he was only 18 months old, Mike was invited to a friend’s birthday party. I think the birthday girl’s parents fall into the ‘eat to live’ category because, in their naivety, they placed the birthday cake on a low table, right in-line with the children’s eye level. I’m sure more than one kid noticed the cake as the party raged on, but Mike was obsessed. It was a party, after all, and according to him, you ate cake at a party! To make matters worse, the cake was only served three hours into the celebration which meant that, for three hours, Mike’s parents had their hands full trying to keep their son from plunging his face into the birthday cake!
I have so much sympathy for poor little Mike. I get the same feeling when collecting a takeaway pizza and having to face the drive home. The pizza box is on your lap, you can feel the heat of the still oven-warm pizza through the box. You smell the cheese and herbs, and all the mouth-watering toppings, each one selected with care. You imagine how the stringy cheese will pull away after you bite into the first slice. Maybe you’ll burn your mouth a bit on the still piping hot tomato base but, man, it’ll be worthwhile. The problem is that you’re still in the car and you can’t eat it, not yet, because you have to drive home first. The fifteen-minute drive drags on for what feels like hours. The first hunger pangs strike, your tummy grumbles in protest and you feel like you haven’t eaten in days. But, you’re an adult and you need to curb your feelings towards this pizza. You’ll likely be judged for smashing a whole slice into your face before even getting home. And so, you wait.
Mike loves to eat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Of course, good eating habits are very important for your health, and it’s something I encourage. But I do wish that people could cultivate a happier relationship with food; whether they eat to live, or live to eat! And I truly hope that dear little Mike will be able to hold on to his appreciation for good food for the rest of his life.
On that note, I’ve been daydreaming about that perfect pizza since writing this story. Warm, golden brown crust and bubbling cheese, perhaps with bacon, feta, and creamy avocado… I think I’m going to have to give in and order one. But I’ll make this one for home delivery!
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I’ve made many interesting friends here in Donegal. Read about one with eight legs in A spider called Jeffrey.