Food as Therapy

From The Philosophers' Mail:

Food7At the moment, food is highly prestigious. A vast amount of attention is paid to celebrity chefs, dietary advice, new restaurants and cooking shows. We have, it seems, become collectively obsessed with what we eat.

But the question of what we need from food, other than just physical sustenance, is rarely taken up. The issue sounds a bit weird. And yet food is evidently not just ‘fuel’. It offers help with certain of our psychological needs. It has, if you like, therapeutic potential.

That’s because every kind of food not only has nutritional value (the sort you’ll see on the label), it also carries with it what one might term a psychological value. The value emerges from its character. Every food hints at a personality, an orientation, a way of apprehending the world, who it would be if it was magically turned into a person. You could ascribe to it a gender, an outlook, a spirit, even a political dimension.

Take the lemon. Nutritionally-speaking, it has 29 calories per 100g, 2.8g dietary fibre, 2.5g of sugar and so on. But psychologically-speaking, it has also ‘ingredients’. It is a fruit that ‘speaks’ (quietly but eloquently) of such things as: the south, the sun, the upstanding and the hopeful, the morning and the simple. It suggests calls to action, it wants us to brace ourselves to take on what matters and focus on what we know we have to do. It is against sentimentality: it is brutally honest, but kind. Or take the hazelnut. Again, full of nutritional value, but at the same time a receptacle of such things as: autumnal briskness, maturity, soberness, self-sufficiency and an almost childlike neatness (like a 10-year-old who keeps his drawers tidy…).

More here.