Food tastes better when you’re Kristen by Jewel Campbell

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Today we hear from my cousin, Jewel, a woman who I admire greatly. She’s still in her early twenties and has already owned her own home and her own business, she’s traveled the world, found a place to call home and still ventures forth courageously through life. Now she takes a turn at dissecting how I eat.

Jewel and Kristen picnicking in the park

I think we were somewhere in Australia. The early days of Australia, when we still hated it. I mean, were reluctant with our feelings of goodwill towards it (though that did change eventually when Australia stopped being such a bitch to us). We had three months to go in Australia and enough money for a few weeks, comfortably. We were poor and we missed New Zealand. We had left Heaven-On-Earth for Australia which is host to more creatures trying to kill you than anywhere else and instead of looking like paradise, looks mostly like Mars and hadn’t stopped raining in a week. We spent the entire time in a leaky three-person backpacking tent and had to cancel our diving trip as well as all other outside-the-tent plans. So we were cranky and needing a morale boost. Our story finds Erika, Kristen and I sitting outside a little ice cream shop with the rare treats our poverty seldom allowed. Three girls and two ice creams on the budget plan.

On this afternoon it was finally sunny outside, the world was full of possibility, my best friends were beside me, and I was ready to make the best of things. It took 15 minutes to decide on the perfect flavors but then we carried our ice cream outside to enjoy. They were delicious. It might have been gelato instead of ice cream, hard to remember. I have always been notorious for letting things get by me but that afternoon my powers of observation soon led me to the realization that something was going on with Kristen.

I become fascinated by the signs of consternation she began to exhibit. Weird mouth things, crazy eye twitches, small noises of protest in the back of her throat and strange defensive maneuvers with her spoon. Confused I inquired about this and was surprised to discover that Kristen was in a state of extreme distress due to Erika and I eating the ice cream wrong. Meaning: too fast and not savoring it enough.

It was then that I realized Kristen is different. Over time (and buddy did we have a lot of time together that trip) I observed her more closely, watching her prepare food, plan menus, grocery shop, and most importantly: consume food. There is an important order when Kristen consumes food. It must be eaten slowly, and tasted all the way. She identifies the tastiest thing in the meal and saves one tiny bite of that for the end of the meal so she can end with that flavor on her buds. A careful proportion of refried beans is monitored so she has enough for each bite of enchilada, or a glass of a yummy beverage is managed so she has enough to sip through the meal with enough to wash down the meal afterwards. She is a woman of great strategy, the holding of the fork, the scooping of the soup with a spoon, the distribution of grated cheese on a burrito or the perfect method of cooling down a cup of hot tea. Even when spreading peanut butter on a limp piece of bread, she has put more thought into that than I do when I submit my taxes. Each bite has been carefully meditated upon to make eating the ultimate experience. All meals have been analyzed and are optimized to her maximum enjoyment. It is an art. This lends greater value to the mealtime, or snacktime experience. By focusing on the variety and depth of flavor, of texture, by structuring combinations, and metering the different elements proportionately to each other she is having a meaningful experience in addition to simply nourishing herself.

Over the course of our trip many more of the situations outlined above happened in varying degrees of drama. That’s just what happens when you put two people in unbelievably close proximity for six months, one of them an unobservant fool, the other a strategic genius, but what I learned from those experiences I want to share with you all now.

Kristen enjoys food more than normal people but it’s more than that. I believe that food actually tastes better to Kristen. I’m sure of it. It’s a miraculous and beautiful thing that should be celebrated. Watch her the next time you and friends are choosing a restaurant or a cocktail. Observe her in the kitchen, preparing food meticulously or when she is carefully enjoying a meal. There is a depth of strategy that just may revolutionize the way you live.

With that in mind I feel there is no one better to be writing a blog based on food, its history, how to cook it, why to eat it, how it makes us feel, how it affects the world, and what it means to us.

Kristen, you are doing a great job.

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Michael Pollan

Quote

To brew beer, to make cheese, to bake a loaf of bread, to braise a pork shoulder, is to be forcibly reminded that all these things are not just products, in fact are not even really ‘things’. Most of what presents itself to us in the marketplace as a produt is in truth a web of relationships, between people, yes, but also between ourselves and all the other species on which we still depend. Eating and drinking especially implicate us in the natural world in ways that the industrial economy, with its long and illegible supply chains, would have us forget. The beer in that bottle, I’m reminded as soon as I brew it myself, ultimately comes not from a factory but from nature–from a field of barley snapping in the wind, from a hops vine clambering over a trellis, from a host of invisible microbes feasting on sugars. It took the carefully orchestrated collaboration of three far-flung taxonomic kingdoms–plants, animals, and fungi– to produce that ale. To make it yourself once in a while, to handle the barley and inhale the aroma of hops and yeast, become, among other things, a form of observance, a weekend ritual of remembrance.

–Michael Pollan, Cooked