If you were allowed one last meal, what would you eat? Would it be a Nathan’s Dog, Philly Cheese Steak, jambalaya, or maybe good old Idaho salmon? In an interview last week, one of our University of Idaho students asked the dietetics program faculty this question. Each professor took time to think this over and then carefully described their meal. What was fascinating to me was that each of us started with dessert first. We are supposed to be nutrition experts, eating well balanced uber-nutritious meals and practicing what we preach. And we do. But let’s face it, part of a delicious meal is dessert, and there’s no reason we can’t indulge occasionally.
It’s funny that as much as I love fruits and vegetables and eat mass quantities daily, they weren’t really on my radar for my last meal. If it’s my last meal, to heck with health! Food has many symbolic meanings, comfort foods, memory foods, performance foods, etc. For this reason, I believe that going on a diet made up of unfamiliar and foreign foods can never be sustained. To try to maintain a diet that is void of our symbolic foods or favorite foods is a recipe for failure.
If you grew up eating red beans and rice, chances are every time you take a bite you are taking a trip down memory lane. What we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it and who’s at the table is a form of communication that is rich with meaning.
Luckily, we don’t have to eat every day as if it’s our last meal. Diets can be modified, but be sure they are still pleasant. Include some of your favorite foods into your meals, even if only in small amounts. When it comes to diets, enjoyable equals sustainable. If your favorite foods are high in calories or fat, be sure to counter these with a little extra exercise. It’s all about balance. My favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Enjoying food and its meaning is part of that journey.
So what would my last meal be? Foods from my childhood of course, an Apres after skiing meal to include prawns, artichokes, sautéed mushrooms and a Swedish waffle with strawberries. I guess there were fruits and vegetables in that meal after all!