In three weeks I will mark the 5th anniversary of a quirky tradition I’ve created for myself.
Every year I give up some type of food. It's not a cumulative giving up, whereby I'd slowly exhaust items permissible in my diet, never to return to them. I'm basically on an annual food rotation, cycling certain foods out during particular years.
I don't know exactly how this tradition started. That won't stop me from speculating a little later though.
In 2011, I gave up beef for a year.
In 2012, I gave up lamb.
In 2013, I gave up tuna.
In 2014, I gave up ice cream (probably the single most challenging one of them all so far).
In 2015, I'm giving up chocolate--the taste of chocolate, not just chocolate. Much to my chagrin, this includes chocolate ice cream too. 22 days to go- Yay!
What inspired me to adopt this quirky food ritual?
I acknowledge three influences:
1. Seeing the pyschic benefits of a restrictive diet, for example keeping kosher.
- I've observed how much fellowship exists amongst people who keep kosher. It's significant. To focus on the anachronisms of kashrut is beside the point. From a community and or fellowship standpoint, I suspect it is not what you eat, it is what you don't eat that is defining.
2. Inspiration from the locavore movement.
- I have not been able to faithfully stick to anything "locavorian." Frequent travel makes this hard. But there is probably no more noble movement today in the diet/health/wealthness universe than simply aiming to eat locally.
- It is the one meta idea that can unite meat-eaters and vegans, carb advocates vs. protein advocates.
- Ultimately, from whatever angle you look at food- from an environmental POV, an animal rights POV, an Agribusiness POV, etc. you realize there is no perfect system. The locavore movement sets some rather quaint parameters, i.e. just eat locally, but immediately you see the sacrifices one has to make: might I never eat another rambutan if I don't/can't up and move to Thailand? The idea of "locavore" served as my intro to the compromises we will all have to make to maintain a safe, nutritious, and reliable global supply chain of food.
3. Hinayana Buddhism.
- My experience with Buddhism has mostly been of the Mahayana variety, namely the more cerebral and ritualistic version.
- Nonetheless, going to Thailand and Burma, and learning more about the Southern Buddhist traditions you can't help but pay attention to the physical challenge Hinayana Buddhism places upon its adherents.
- Whether it is fasting, or giving up certain items of food (often times one's most "go-to," most delectable food choices), or restricting oneself to one meal a day, the body-challenge of Hinayana Buddhism appeals to me more and more.
Reflecting on it after 5 years I think what made my annual "giving up," a small act as it was, compelling to me was the bothness of it. Sometimes it was mental--they were just projections of preferences I imagined for myself. Sometimes I would physically crave these foods. Sometimes it was both. I would imagine these foods--I really, really wanted to eat them (so far everything has been a food I terribly like [I didn't cheat by putting donkey ear, or rat's ass on there) so much that there was a mental-physical craving I had to overcome. What made this a sustainable, and progressively rewarding tradition was irrespective of the size, the combined mental and physical challenge.
Tomorrow I will talk about what might have (and often does) but didn't influence my food decision...