Monthly Archives: June 2013

Eating with less science and more joy


If someone ever told me that some day I’d write anything involving science, I would have done that look-over-my-shoulder thing and assume they must be talking to someone else.

But we’re doing it today. Sort of.

In the context of what we eat, sometimes I think science can get in our way.

I’m not trying to discount science’s place in our lives—especially when it comes to food/nutrition—it is inarguably substantial. Science has brought many blessings to this earth (and is no enemy to Christianity in my opinion).

However, we want it to explain everything. We reduce everything to expiration dates. Calories. Ingredient lists. We want science to tell us so we don’t have to use our instincts or really have to think about what food we’re putting into our bodies.  We want to buy the snack pack of 100 calories because no matter what’s in that bag, we know it’s 100 calories and we’ve been told that’s good.

I hate to bring it up, but 100 calories of Oreos are still just Oreos.

We’ve been told: if you eat more than X calories a day, you’ll gain weight. If you eat less than X calories, you’ll lose weight.

Yes, but doesn’t that sound awful? No wonder our country is one big diet disaster.

I love this quote in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan:

“The problem is that once science has reduced a complex phenomenon to a couple of variables, however important they may be, the natural tendency is to overlook everything else, to assume that what you can measure is all there is, or at least all that really matters. “ (pgs. 147-148)

I would hate if someone reduced me to science:

Some hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and one scientific anomaly: an early riser.

Technically it’s correct (more or less) but the description wouldn’t help you know what I’d want for my birthday (the answer: sweet cooking tools/gadgets). Or, it doesn’t explain that I daydream about excuses for Bryan and I to live in Spain for a year. Or, that ice cream is the way to my heart.

So why do we want everything to boil down to science? It provides answers, but it takes the joy out of things sometimes, don’t you think?

How about knowing our food, so that we use our experience, our feel, to know a tomato is ripe? Using smells, sight, touch, so we know when something has gone bad. (For the sake of safety, let’s not use taste.)

Just because we’ve figured out how to make food shelf-stable (scientifically speaking) for months on end, should we eat it?

Shouldn’t we trust the food God created and intended for us to eat? Shouldn’t we have a relationship with food and the land that isn’t about calories and ingredient lists?

If the food is straight from the earth, it’s likely pretty good fuel for our bodies.

Science backs that up. But don’t reduce what you eat to science.

You’ll only rob yourself of the joy of eating fresh, simple ingredients from God’s creation.