The Irresistible Attraction of Excess

The desire of want – when it comes to food – is no new phenomenon; it’s called hunger.

Achieving satiety, that nice feeling of food in the belly, has been the most occupying hardship presented to humans.  That is, until the twentieth century in the West.  From the tractor and beyond, we conquered  hunger for a lot of us – literally more than one can stomach.

So, how are we handling the abundance of food?

For us humans or the Homo sapien species, we’re the only hominids who have ever achieved a constant supply of food.  We’ve overcome the fear of hunger, and our accomplishment should certainly be celebrated – but not too much.  While we’ve overcome the hardships of food production via agriculture and technology, we’ve simultaneously entered into a new age of food in the West:  the abundance of food.  We’re slowly killing ourselves.  We make too much food, we eat too much food, and we waste too much food.  Such circumstances leave one wondering what’s better:  The fear of hunger or the attraction and celebration of excess?

While we’ve secured our reign as a species here on Earth, via stable food systems, we’re still far from achieving balance with nature.

When you think about it, our relationship with food – in terms of production, consumption, and the sort – has only slightly ameliorated compared to  thousands of years ago.  While some may say not at all, our relationship with food has certainly reversed – to the other side of the spectrum.  Instead of ailing from hunger, we’re dying from obesity.

To understand this concept more broadly, we must go way back in the past.   For millions of years, hominids – from the subspecies Australopithecus, about 3 million years ago,  to the Neanderthals, and then to us,  homo sapiens – have been doing all they can to avoid starvation: hunting, enacting mobile tribes to follow migratory prey, practicing agriculture, preserving foods, technology, etc.  Many were defeated by hunger. Any way you look at it, perspective sheds light on one certainty: the fear of hunger has embedded itself MAsters class 572consciously and subconsciously in us.  And now that we’ve overcome starvation, the fear of it is still with us.  In fact, fear is a driving force which makes us bite off more than we can chew.

It wasn’t until the twentieth century that humans began to significantly conquer the barricades of hunger:  food abundance is a victory for human kind.  On one hand, it means that we humans are no longer slaves to food and the seasons, but on the other, it means that our irresistible attraction to excess is realizable. We can make as much food as we desire.

Our attraction to the excess of food should be interpreted as normal. Why not – you know?  We’ve been hungry for a very long time. Our ability to produce an abundance of food is a celebration of ingenuity and a security for our species.    And regarding this notion, we finally possess the skill-set to outmatch the hardships of nature and the brutality of the seasons – especially winter.   We can eat fresh fruit on the coldest February day and as much ice cream as we want to in summer.  But what happens when we fall victim to the attraction of excess?

MAsters class 620We get fat.  Food becomes something it isn’t: processed, refined, a stuff.  The list can continue because a lot more bad happens.

The only good thing about an abundance of food, as suggested by the Italian food historian Massimo Montanari, is this:  The journey to restore balance in our food systems can now occur with a little more bliss than in the past. Why?  Our stomachs are full.


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