Sometimes You Just Need to Eat the Cheesecake…And Other Important Truths About Food

Let’s talk about food.

I know, that’s what we usually do here. But, I don’t mean, let’s talk about creamy plates of butternut squash risotto…


Or steaming bowls of curried sweet potato soup…


(Both recipes of mine featured in last month’s issue of The Catholic Digest, by the way.)

Instead, I mean, let’s talk about why we care about butternut squash risotto and get all excited about curried sweet potato soup. Why do we cook? Why do we eat? Why do we spend so much time, money, and energy fretting our little heads about food?

My Facebook feed has the answer. Or, rather, it thinks it does.

We’re currently approaching the high holidays of eating, so almost daily, one friend or another, making an attempt at preventative virtue, posts about their new diet and the philosophy of food behind it: “I eat for energy”; “I’m eating clean”; “I’m eating like a caveman.”

Of course, right alongside those posts, are ads for Godiva chocolate, urging me to “Indulge,” as well as images from food blogs (mine included), which post pictures of tasty treats tantalizing enough to tempt even the strictest of ascetics to break their fast.

My own complicity in this  problem aside, the question remains: Who is right? Do we eat for health? Or do we eat for pleasure? Is it right to eat for nutrition, but wrong to eat for comfort? Is it virtuous to treat food as fuel, but wrong to treat it as a reward.

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“Like Life to Man”: The Glory of Wine

On the list of “Things I Don’t Understand,” Pittsburgh traffic tops the list. Bruce Jenner comes in as a close second. Third, I think, is a dry dinner party. Or, more specifically, a dry Catholic dinner party—a dinner party with plenty of Catholics, but no wine (or beer or booze as the case may be).

Such sad affairs are a uniquely American phenomenon—a weird social tick that American Catholics picked up from living alongside tee-totaling Protestants. Elsewhere, they simply don’t exist. Not in Italy. Not in France. Not in Germany or Austria or Spain. Really, not anywhere in Western Civilization that has more than a passing connection to Catholicism. There, if you find food and people, you’ll also find adult beverages.

And that, especially when it comes to wine, is exactly how it should be.

Wine 8

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Good to Eat: How I Said “Goodbye” to Anorexia and “Hello” to Cheese

I was all set to write a fun, breezy little post about one of my favorite things in the universe—wine—when the Great Hive Mind informed me that this is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Thanks, Facebook. Now I feel guilty writing about wine.

Because I don’t do things I feel guilty about—or, at least, I try not to do them—the wine post is on hold. Instead, I’m going to share a few thoughts about how I walked away from anorexia for good 14 years ago.

For those of you not familiar with the disease, the prognosis for those battling eating disorders isn’t exactly rosy. While most people who struggle with anorexia get somewhat better, few get all better. The majority spend their lives waffling on the edge of a relapse. Many fall right off that edge.

But me? You couldn’t drag me back to that edge with a thousand horses. I like cheese too much. And bacon.

I also like myself too much. And my friends and family and every other person on the planet who doesn’t deserve to deal with the horror that is Emily When She’s Not Eating. In my case, Christian charity pretty much forbids a relapse.

That’s not to say I’m not a normal woman living in the 21st century. Air-brushed babes can totally get me down. Skinny jeans can’t go away fast enough. But, regardless of how I occasionally feel about my body, I’m not going to starve myself in pursuit of some unrealistic ideal. At 39, I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to stop feeding myself. Life it too full to spend one minute of it going down that rabbit hole.

So, what made my recovery possible? Lots of things, from my desire to be a mother (although that hasn’t quite worked out) to an increasingly full and fun life. Five things, however, stand out above the rest.

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Kitchen Rules: 23 Tips for Sane Eating

I love food. I love bacon cheeseburgers, rare. I love brussel sprouts, roasted. And I love pizza…any way you want to serve it up. I also have great affection for white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, pasta aglio e olio, lamb curry, risotto alla crema di scampi, and blackberry cobbler. I love blackberry cobbler

Blackberry Cobbler

I don’t just love food, though. I eat it. Happily. Gladly. Without guilt or regret. I don’t count calories. I don’t watch my fat intake. And I don’t weigh myself the morning after I’ve polished off a piece of pumpkin cheesecake.

If you had told me, 15 years ago, that this kind of freedom was possible, I would have thought you were a raving, mad lunatic. Back then, there was no freedom. Only numbers: numbers on a scale, numbers on nutrition labels, numbers on my clothing tags.

So, what changed?

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