Wednesday, January 5, 2011
My New Years Binge
It's a new year and a time for resolutions, as I witnessed by the enormous spike in attendance at my gym this past week. While I resisted the urge to post top ten lists and make promises to myself that I cannot keep, I do see the new year as a powerful tool as an opportunity for reflection.
I began the New Years season flying on the inspiring coattails of the Hazon Food Conference, a gathering of Jews on Christmas that did not involve Chinese food or movies. Rather, it was an event in the hills of Sonoma County that focused on food justice, sustainable agriculture and food education within a Jewish context. It might have been the perfect chance to blog furiously about all the people I met who are engaged in grassroots efforts to provide equal food access and education to communities throughout the country. But well outside of Wi-fi range, I was forced instead to focus on the event at hand, to talk to the people who had traveled from across the country to meet like-minded people who were excited about the (Jewish and non-Jewish) food movement.
(Photo taken at the Walker Creek Ranch, site of the Hazon Food Conference)
The next weekend I found myself once again without the familiar company of facebook, gmail and The New York Times. I spent New Years at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, tucked away in a Wi-fi free beach cottage. It was relaxing, refreshing and majestic, with breathtaking views and scenery.
(Sunrise view of Mt. Rainier on January 1, 2011.)
What's my point and what does this have to do with a food blog? Well, while I can easily make these experiences sound incredible (and they were) I haven't yet mentioned the dark side. Each time, upon returning home, I completely binged on media and technology. While I sincerely appreciated the time away from phone calls and text messages, emails and videos, I could not stop myself from overindulging when I returned to "civilization." In fact, I spent the last hours of winter break hiding in my room watching the entire first season of Veronica Mars online - all 22 episodes - which, I should mention, I've already seen! I did pause it to make meals, do some yoga, walk around the lake and - ever so briefly - to sleep. What was going on? Why couldn't I stop? I was truly puzzled by this obsession. It reminded me of so many other situations - like when I'd had friends visit from out of town and they were thrilled to eat so healthfully in my house but then "snuck" out for Cold Stone Creamery because they could not deal with the lack of sweets I had to offer. Or when I'd gone to Guatemala and eaten "real" food for two weeks with friends who could not wait to get home and eat pizza and burgers. So I gave it some serious thought. Many of us have things that we do compulsively - eating, shopping, watching television, checking facebook - and how often do we pause to consider what is driving that urge? Determined to make some sense of my addiction I found some clues in the recesses on my old blog. Yes, I kept a blog years ago, the first time I was a graduate student, and there too I found an entry written after I voraciously consumed two seasons worth of Veronica Mars episodes. At the time I had worked hard to complete my master's degree, after which I spent six weeks traveling in Israel. Upon returning home I found myself facing an uncertain future, scared and insecure, inspired but exhausted from the previous months of excitement and I turned to a television series about a girl who searching for the truth about her best friend's murder. Driven by the need to seek out justice, she solves small crimes in each neatly packaged episode, while acquiring new answers to the larger question. Back then, as now, I latched on to Veronica's journey, followed her obsession, to avoid dealing with the looming questions: where will I be next year? what will I do after graduation? I've been down this road before and seeing it again in the distance is terrifying. Some people turn to food or alcohol to fill that empty void. I turn to mass media. I overconsume television shows, watching "marathons" (a term that makes it sound far more respectable than it is.) I overconsume online articles, clicking from one to the next in the search for greater understanding of the world, of justice, health, food and myself. Once again I find myself returning to this word, too banal to bear the weight of its meaning: moderation. Everything has its place, but how can we behave with the self-awareness to make sure it fits properly but does not monopolize our time, health and resources? How can we be satisfied with just one episode, one cookie, one beer? In a world with so much information, so many calories at our fingertips all the time, how can we avoid overconsumption?