Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Defining "Bad"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014: How often do you eat foods that you know are bad for your body?

The simple answer to this question is: Every day. But since that's not an interesting answer, I think the real question here is: What does the word bad mean in the context of nourishment?

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines bad as "low or in poor quality; not correct or proper; or not pleasant, pleasing, or enjoyable." In each of these definitions, bad takes on a particular context. I'll tackle each of these in turn.

One could say that overly processed food is of low or poor quality. Similarly, canned or frozen food could be viewed as being of poor quality. I'm generally not a fan of processed food (think from a box) because I find that there is often too much salt for my tastes or there is hidden dairy. My pantry does not contain anything of this sort currently. In my opinion, the quality of the frozen food depends on what is frozen. For example, we keep frozen strawberries and other fruit around for our morning smoothies. By using frozen fruit we are able to buy more at a lower cost and don't have to use ice cubes in our smoothies. So, by some standards this could be bad, but I think it goes in the "good" column.

As far as "not correct or proper" goes, I think we do a good job of avoiding these foods. In our house, food that fits this part of the definition would be any form of dairy. We eat a mostly paleo diet, so mass produced grains and sugars are out. However, we do splurge sometimes. If we're having guests over for dinner, I may use that as a cheat meal. For example, a few weeks ago I made chicken and dumplings and apple pie for a dinner party. Both of those recipes call for all-purpose white flour and I have yet to find a non-grain substitute that tastes good. It was good to be a little bad.

I like to say that one of my major hobbies is eating. I love to bake and cook tasty food. There is the occasional misfire though where things don't turn out how I wanted them to. I haven't ruined a meal to the point where ordering take-out is the remedy, but that doesn't mean that I'm not prepared to call for help. Life is far too short to waste one's time eating bad food. We've been getting a fair amount of beets in our weekly veggie deliveries lately. After cooking beets a few times, I've decided that I don't like them and will not have them included in our boxes any more. At first I thought I was being a little silly for declaring a vegetable bad, but if it doesn't bring me joy, why bother?

You may have noticed by now that I think words really do matter. The sociological term for the analysis that I just proposed for the word bad is called social constructionism. This is really just a term that sums up that meaning is imputed to concepts and things through interaction between people and by the signs and symbols attributed to the concept. Of course there is more I could say about social constructions, but I'll leave it there for now.

Best wishes!

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