Friday, September 13, 2013

Why I’m Agnostic (About Diet): 7 Quick Takes (Volume III)

“Then Tolstoy and the Humanitarians said that the world was growing more merciful, and therefore no one would ever desire to kill. And Mr. Mick not only became a vegetarian, but at length declared vegetarianism doomed ("shedding," as he called it finely, "the green blood of the silent animals"), and predicted that men in a better age would live on nothing but salt. And then came the pamphlet from Oregon (where the thing was tried), the pamphlet called "Why should Salt suffer?" and there was more trouble.” G. K. Chesterton in The Napoleon of Notting Hill.


This is me, enjoying some food.
You will note that I am NOT
eating onions.
When I was a kid, my parents handed me food and said that it was good. I was happy to agree with them. Except for onions. Onions were not good. My mom would put them in her spaghetti sauce, I would pick them out, and then my dad would notice the little pile of diced onion on my plate. The resulting conversation would be strained.

In fact, my mom still wants me to enjoy the benefits of onions. "But they are sweet, Vidalia onions!" She will cry. 

"They are still onions," I mutter rebelliously, especially since they are raw.

Probably I am turning down a marvelous health benefit that would get rid of my pimples or protect my intestines or something.


The problem is that nowadays, the media won’t let us eat good food in peace. Instead, we have learned that if we don’t eat the right foods, we will be unhealthy, but that the right foods might be the wrong ones and will make us sick. You absolutely must read this hilarious post about the tragedy of the healthy eater, the perils of internet research, and the way your food is trying to kill you:

The Tragedy of the Healthy Eater. As I said, it’s hilarious.


I have developed sympathy for the people who claim that because there are so many religions, none of the religions can be true. Those people are wrong, of course. The truth is that there are only two kinds of religion: the religion of works, which teaches about the things that you need to do in order to win the gods’ favor/be a good person/avert hurricanes, etc.; and the religion of grace, which teaches about what God has already done and offers freely to you.  Yet I sympathize with the overwhelmed religious seeker.

The variance of diet advice overwhelms me. My problem is that I like to please everyone. Some of my friends believe that milk should be consumed regularly. Others believe that it is extremely unhealthy at all times. Me: I settle for drinking half a glass of milk.

Yesterday I asked my husband if he thought that I should be careful not to drink too much milk (now that I’m pregnant, I find myself drawn to a nice cold glassful in the evening, partly because it fobs off my ice cream craving). He said that he’s already drunk far more milk than I ever will, and that I shouldn’t worry. I sighed over the fact that my milk is 2% instead of skim, and that even the milk-lovers advise skim. He reminded me of the folks who believe that dairy is only healthy if taken whole-fat (the fat is supposed to help you digest the sugar). This cheered me right up, because 2% is in-between whole fat and skim. Now I can drink my glass of 2% in good conscience. Of course, I make sure not to fill the glass all the way up to the top in case the no-milk-allowed people are correct.

The moral of the story is that if you want to feel good about your position, you should find people who are more extreme, on both sides of the issue, than you are. That way you’ve proved yourself a moderate in the middle of the road. That’s where truth is said to lie.  


I have to wonder about the Aztec diet, the Inca diet, the Cave Man diet, and all those others. 


Chocolate, however, is not a problem for me. I’ve developed a sort of belief that it’s essentially calorie free as long as I don’t eat too much of it (I’m speaking only of high-quality dark chocolate, of course—that Hershey’s stuff is nasty). Have you ever eaten Trader Joe’s dark chocolate and sea salt covered almonds? They are wonderful!

Speaking of chocolate, this summer I discovered a recipe that looked like it would not work, but actually did. Dark chocolate covered grapes. Easy and tasty, with a nice juiciness. I kept mine the refrigerator and they lasted for quite a few days. Here is the recipe, should you be inspired to try some. 


Right now, I have it easy. I don't have to worry about what my kids should eat or how to persuade them to eat it (do you think I should make them eat onions)?


The funny thing about food is that it is so symbolic of the Christian life one earth. Food is necessary for our survival, and (quite unnecessarily) tastes delicious. Doesn’t this illustrate God’s generosity? Yet when eaten injudiciously, food harms our bodies and damages our souls by becoming the object of sinful gluttony or an idolatrous attempt to control life. Food not only causes stress as we try to decide what is healthy, but also shows us our dreadful lack of self-control. It illustrates that even the good things of this world are messed up by sin—the very sin that came into the world through the eating of a fruit. Yet when God sent His Son to earth to redeem us, that Son sat down with his disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you…... This cup is the new testament, in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” God chose to use food as a means of grace.

Given faith through Christ’s death, we go to receive this bread and wine that is also body and blood. Unlike our choice of diets or milk consumption, we need not stress or fear, because this is not about us and our choices. It is the gift of God, and it is good.  

This is most certainly true! No need for agnosticism here.

Read more Friday Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.


  1. Hah! Loved this, Anna. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Ha! This is the best advice about food/dieting that I have heard in a very long time. You nailed it.

    BTW, go ahead and drink up that glass of milk. Be kind to yourself and don't feel guilty about satisfying your cravings.

    1. Thanks, Monique! Oh, don't worry, I indulge in plenty of ice cream (and milk) :-)

  3. Personally, I'm so tired of how food has become a religion for some people. I grew up like you, I think, where one ate what was served, didn't make a fuss about it, and tried to make the least amount of trouble for the cook as possible. (And as someone with tons of food allergies, I was exquisitely conscious of how badly I was failing at this last bit). It's all so different now; I find it exhausting.

    Loved the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon!! (And drink up on that milk, whatever strength you like--your bones will thank you in about 10 years; those babies just take all the calcium out of us!!)

    1. Thanks, I'm quite fond of Calvin and Hobbes myself. As a teacher, I would require that my students spent their "independent reading time" on books instead of comic books, but I'm afraid that I occasionally let the rule slip if the comic book in question was about Calvin. I couldn't help sympathizing.

  4. This is a fabulous post!!! I hate the fact that food and eating have gotten tied up with guilt and fear and I think that is why so many parents just give up and let their kids eat whatever they want because they figure that no matter what, they're doing it wrong anyways. I'll join your club, we can be food agnostics together :)


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