Food for the Thoughtless

Mastication is the curse of the American people.

Seriously, is there one person who can go a single minute without chewing, guzzling, biting, swilling and, finally, swallowing?

I’ve never been in a country where its citizens have a pathological obsession with keeping their mouths full every second of the day. Chips, fries, coffee, burgers – and that’s just the stuff people are eating on the streets. As someone who was brought up never to snack (two meals a day: school lunch, and then meat, two veg and a pudding for dinner), this constant need for oral gratification continues to astonish me

Was everyone deprived of breastfeeding as an infant? Is it just greed? Do people have so little to say to each other that the only other thing they can think to do with their mouths is to stuff them at every given opportunity?

I rarely eat out, not least because of the high salt and fat content that plays havoc with my blood pressure and cholesterol (should you be worried, I had a full blood count two weeks ago and everything came back normal). I cook mainly at home and, in recent years, have enjoyed (or endured, depending on the airline) a huge amount of airline food. It’s invariably cold, served on a tiny plate, and is edible only if accompanied by a pint of red wine.

Sometimes, it’s fantastic (my favorite airline, Virgin Atlantic, is currently going through something of a food renaissance in the food department) and sometimes it’s as if someone has raided the hold where they keep the dead bodies on board and decided to serve up the rotting remains.

I know it’s a privilege to be able to fly and – as I often do as a result of having acquired so many Air Miles – to have the good fortune to fly in a more comfortable class than Economy. When I complain about food on social networking, some people respond as if I spend my days frying small children, but my view is that I deserve a certain standard for what I’ve paid for (by the way: I often call in the food – always more spicy – from Economy, when the dishes are too rich for my liking).

Unfortunately (as I have documented on several occasions), I suffer from a condition known as misophonia (literally, a hatred of sound) and one of the things that particularly grates is the sound of people eating and drinking; it’s why I can rarely be in the company of others eating, unless they are wearing a silencer. I can’t sit in a hotel breakfast room, where the sound clattering cutlery and people scraping their yoghurt pots and cappuccino cups drives me to distraction.

“It’s finished!” I mutter, a little too loudly. “Just get another one!”. It’s another reason I need my own space when flying; stabbing someone with their noisy fork at 30,000 feet is never a good idea (unless you are flying United which, after this week’s debacle, I suspect might be something they encourage).

Those hungry, widescreen Texans in Vegas really bug me. Who starts queuing for the All You Can Eat Buffet at 5am, for goodness sake? I tell you, they are going to consume every last morsel they can if it kills them. Forget building a wall to keep immigrants out, President Trump, just transport an army of buffet-bound Texans to the border; I guarantee no one will be able to get past them.

We are blessed to live in an area of the world that has more food than we could ever consume, and yet we continue to stock up as if we will never see a crumb again. Already, in preparation for the Easter weekend, people are clearing supermarket shelves as if preparing for spending the next three weeks in a war bunker. Is it really necessary to by enough French sticks to feed a bird sanctuary for a year?

There is not one major food or wine shop, either in the US or UK, that I know is going to be closed over the forthcoming break; yet the terror of being without for an hour consumes the population with an appetite even greater than the one that makes them bypass tongue and tastebuds as they throw their food down their throats.

Food advertising on TV, particularly in the US, makes me feel physically sick. Everything is orange, as if it’s gone to the same tanning salon as President Trump. Everything is a bargain and comes by the bucket or, for a family size portion, by something resembling a truck. And everything is meat, meat, meat. Farmyards of the stuff.

I am largely vegetarian, which makes eating out difficult anyway (or even ordering in, come to that) – in New York, it’s Pizza Margarita, or starve. I don’t like eating anything that has a face (men aside) although I indulge a little in turkey at Christmas and Thanksgiving. But then to me, a turkey doesn’t have a face: it’s vulva on legs.

I’ve always hated the texture of meat (and increasingly so, with advancing years) and loathe the smell of fish (heck, I’m a woman: if I wanted to smell fish, I’d just take my panties off). So, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing: lentils, no snacking – and, most importantly, no solids at lunchtime.

Are you nuts? That really is insanity.