Religion, politics, social gatherings.

No doubt, these do not traditionally mix, unless while literally at a religious or political gathering, respectively.

Why? Shenanigans could arise.

People’s morals and values deeply rooted in these subject matters come out of the woodworks, triggering hot-headed responses to opposing views.

Sure, it is possible to engage in civil debates, but let’s be honest, 99% of the time, it will be a case of “Let’s agree to disagree.”

I’m sure you’re nodding your head right now, thinking about the presidential debates, media reports, and, well, obsessive Facebook political posts every 2 seconds.

Are you that guy posting your political viewpoints daily, like we’re all supposed to agree? Well, it quite possibly ain’t gonna happen; but hey, I credit you for expressing your passionate beliefs in line with who you are.

But, I digress…

Amongst these landmark topics of debate includes another highly underrated subject FULL of heated views and disagreements.

FOOD.

The Double-Edge Sword of Food

The good news is that food connects us, and the bad news is that food can divide us.

Pandora’s box has been officially opened, especially with our generation asking poignant questions about food. Where did it come from? How was it prepared? How long did it travel to get here?

With that, people’s food preferences have emerged as fervent as Joe Biden in the vice presidential debate, prompting potential reactions that may even drive a wedge amongst friends and family.

Example: My husband was explaining to a friend that we don’t eat bread or gluten anymore, and his reaction sounded threatened and offended: “Dude, are you serious?? Why the heck would you do that?” Nevermind asking questions about why or trying to understand that there may be a food allergy or other reasons behind it.

Food is personal. 

Oh, and I learned to never turn down a Serbian’s birthday party food buffet. I found myself in this exact situation a year ago, still combating an inflammation of my mucosal lining (another story, another day), and presented with the choices of pasta, rice, bread, or cake. Awesome for healing (I know you sense the sarcasm).

After literally sweating from the hawk-eye stares of the Serbian hosts, I succumbed to picking out the vegetable and meat pieces, hoping I’d dodge the potential upset stomach (and the stares).

Yet peer pressure, with an added dimension of cultural barriers, got the better of me, as I was basically forced to eat chocolate cake (oh, yes, there could be worse things in the world!), and deal with the consequences later.

Food is cultural. 

I guess this could’ve been avoided if I hadn’t gone to the Serbian birthday party in the first place.

But, should it come down to this?

No, and it doesn’t have to.

The Basis of Interactions

After thinking and talking to others about this experience, I learned a heck of a lot more about Serbian culture. It is embedded as a part of their responsibility as hosts to FEED others. It is rude if one refuses, in fact, because it is that personal of a connection to others.

I’ve realized that food isn’t just food; it is a constant theme, ever-present, and woven throughout our interconnected lives. It is the glue to our sustenance, the basis of bonding at family meals, and the core to social gatherings.

Unlike religion and politics, though, we can’t really take food out of the equation. It is needed for survival; for the foundation of many business and personal interactions.

The bottom line is we are stuck dealing with the mixture of food in BOTH personal and business facets.

Thus, we can and have to learn to coexist!

And how do we do this?

Finding Food Coexistence

1) Find the common thread – real, whole foods.

Between the lines of being dogmatic and too lackadaisical with food, there are simple, common threads that go across cultural barriers, socioeconomic barriers (for the most part), and food preferences:

  • Eat. Real. Food.

Vegetarian? Vegan? Gluten-free? Dairy-free?

Whatever your unique biochemical needs are (because one size does not fit all!!), it DOES boil down to the commonality of choosing whole, natural, barely processed foods. 

Where do you find these types of whole foods? At your farmer’s market, around the perimeter of your grocery store, and pretty much without a label of 50 ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Every culture and food preference has the ability to choose the WHOLE version, and the least processed version.

i.e. Mexican food? Choose high quality, grass-fed steak fajitas, soaked and cooked organic rice (to avoid the arsenic!), fresh & homemade guacamole, raw cheese, and sautéed organic peppers and onions.

Vegetarian? Choose minimally processed, fermented soy, or tempeh (rather than other highly processed, highly preserved soy products), baked squash with olive oil, and organic greens.

You get the picture…

2) Understanding.

Rather than shutting out others’ food preferences and backgrounds, asking questions opens up the ability to UNDERSTAND.

And understanding can breed acceptance.

3) Knowledge.

Knowledge is power, right?

Even though you or I may have healthy eating knowledge, many people’s food preferences develop because they just don’t know better. It is easy to assume, but as the saying goes, “it can make an a$$ out of you and me.”

Some may not WANT to know, which creates a whole other dimension, too. Ignorance can be bliss in the world of food…

So, bridging the gap of being pushy and so hands off that we are guilty by association is tricky. We must find ways to expand our own food knowledge and that of others, all the while realizing we can’t force internal motivation to make lasting change.

It is a mix of both art and science.

The Fine Line  

In sum, this is my passion and my plight…

1) Supporting and accepting other’s preferences in their own timeline. After all, caterpillars eventually blossom into butterflies with the right nourishment!

This is an area that I absolutely can work on. My own impatience can come off as pushy or all-knowing at times, when really, I am just THAT passionate about aspiring and inspiring meaningful, nourishing changes.

2) Also, educating myself and others to make whole foods choices with urgency, and for a REASON.

We all have these gifts to give, and when we load up our sophisticated machines with “regular” gas instead of “premium,” we just can’t get the gas mileage that we are capable of; that we are ABLE TO ACHIEVE.

3) Finally, finding ways to harness the double-edged sword of food, and its ability to connect rather than to divide.

By pushing through these personal and cultural barriers around food, we can open up knowledge, understanding, and growth. 

I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts and experiences surrounding the double-edged sword of food! Have you found ways to embrace it, accept others, and find ways to embrace lasting healthy changes?