I can’t write about dead food without hearing echoes of Miracle Max from The Princess Bride. You remember. The only excuse for not remembering would be that you’ve never seen it. If that’s the case stop reading now and go watch it. And by watch it I mean the entire movie, not just a clip of this scene. If you have seen it but truly don’t remember, follow the same instructions. Dead food contributes to brain fog, by the way. A foggy brain has foggy memory. You probably did this to yourself. I’ll explain.
“It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.”
Four years have gone by since the beginning of the Grand Vegan Experiment. It took all four of these years to understand the energy of food. Food is not simply matter. It’s also made of energy, just like the human body. My entire life I considered the energy of food limited to the calories it provides or the fuel it would represent for my desired activities. Never did I consider the vitality of the energy of which the food is composed, until the day I got tired of eating plenty of calories yet still slogging around in zombie mode. Plenty of protein, plenty of carbs, nutrients, check, check, check; but then hit a zombie mode tailspin and fail to understand why.
Zombie mode is my pet name for the dull, crappy feeling of no previously known origin. Bad mood, dismal motivation, sour outlook, overall doldrums even though nothing is really wrong. It took keeping a food diary (again … ugh) to finally understand it has/had nothing to do with calories or vitamins. Well, not nothing; those things are important and we all still need them but lack of calories or low vitamin C wasn’t the culprit. It was the vitality of the food I chose — the life in the food — independent of the energy into which the food will be converted. What is vitality? The Oxford definition: the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things.
The reason food tastes better when it is fresh? It is more alive and less dead when it is fresh. The reason food is considered healthier for us when it is fresh? It is more alive. It hasn’t died much. More nutrients are still alive. As freshness wanes, nutrients are lost. As food is processed, nutrients are lost. The longer the food maintains its vital energy (its alive-ness), the more vital the energy we consume when we eat the food. In the case of an apple, vital (living) energy is transferred from the earth and sun to the tree, to the fruit, and then to the human body. That energy dies as the food dies, so we are losing more than vitamins and minerals when we opt out of living food. We miss out on the life in the food as well.
Now that I’ve realized this I have a new choice each time I consider food. How alive is this food? What kind of energy will I consume with this food? How is this food’s energy going to make me feel? How will this food’s vital energy (or lack thereof) affect what I need to accomplish today? Filling up on dead food is similar to filling up on empty calories. If I have to consume better food to compensate later, maybe I need to pass on the dead food now. I realize now why the whole foods movement has become so popular. Whole foods are less dead when they are less processed.
What kills the energy in food? Time, of course. The apple begins dying as soon as it is picked from the tree. In the case of perishable food meant to be stored, it may be bleached, irradiated, deconstructed into parts, heated, injected, frozen, pressure-cooked, fermented, cured, dyed, packaged with gases or chemical preservatives, or had any number of additives applied to it. Much of this may be necessary to prevent the food from decaying and therefore render it “safe” to eat but this food has been processed to death. By the time we consume this food it is dead or at best, barely alive, and so is the quality of energy in the food. Even if it happens to be vegan, it is not necessarily alive.
The downside to all of this is innocence lost and therefore more convenience lost. Gone are the days of blithely eating whatever whenever without a thousand questions to consider before the abiding ritual of purchase, prep, partake. In truth, the days of eating with abandon were gone four years ago but in addition to compulsory label-reading and never-ending advance meal planning there is the question of dead or alive. Or rather, how dead or how alive. Pain in the ass by comparison? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. Avoiding zombie mode is well worth it. Put another way, sustainable pleasure is well worth it. To quote Miracle Max again, “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”
Now go watch the damn movie. There are no vegans in it, I swear. But there are humiliations galore.