Food for Thoughtlessness


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, my last full blood count showed that everything was 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 (before Covid, my favorite airline,, was going through something of a food renaissance in the food department) but, for the most part, appalling – 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, having acquired so many Air Miles, have the good fortune to fly in a more comfortable class than Economy. When I complain about the food on social networking, some people respond as if I spend my days frying small children, but my view is that if they are advertising a better product, that is what they should deliver (by the way: I often call in the food – always more spicy – from Economy, when the dishes in my cabin are too rich for my liking). Invariably, I pay considerably less in a higher-class cabin than Economy passengers, because I am very savvy with my miles; heck, I’m hardly Jeff Bezos.

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 of clattering cutlery and people scraping their yoghurt pots and cappuccino cups drives me to distraction.

“It’s finished!” I mutter, a little too loudly, when the people at a neighboring table are excavating the remains of their yoghurt. “Just get another one!”. It’s another reason I need my own space when flying; stabbing someone tapping their noisy fork at 30,000 feet is never a good idea, although if you are flying, it would be understandable, and a good defense lawyer could probably get you off.

By far the worst eaters are those hungry, widescreen Texans, who really bug me, especially the ones I observed in Las Vegas. 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 if it kills them, and when the food runs out, they’ll start on the table leg. Trump wasted so much energy worrying about building a wall to keep Mexicans at bay; all he needed to do was erect a nachos buffet and transport an army of Texans to the border; I guarantee no one would have been 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, especially during the pandemic. Easter is over a week ago, yet already 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? Where’s Jesus with his barley loaves and fish supplies when you need him?

There is not one major food or wine shop, either in the US or UK, that I know ever stays complete closed over national holidays; 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 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, as it gets stuck between my teeth) and loathe the smell of fish (heck, I’m a woman; we have enough of our own fishy smells to deal with). 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.