Liking Food and Being Obnoxious

Recently I’ve been referring to myself as an obnoxious human being quite a lot. The reasons for this assertion are as follows: I’ve started liking One Direction, I kind of want to try a 3-day juice cleanse despite not believing any of the claims of the “science” behind them, and the other week I actually said the phrase “I’m not a hipster, I liked kale before it was cool”. I was partly joking around, but also telling the truth – my parents introduced my sister and I to kale years ago as just another variation of cabbage/greens that cropped up in Sunday roast dinners. And just earlier today I had the following exchange:

Me: I had an obnoxious lunch today. The main was a salad of tuna, red kidney beans, chickpeas, sweetcorn, red onion and parsley…

Friend: That sound nice. What’s obnoxious about that?

Me: Drink was ‘charcoal nut milk’ – water, almonds, black sesame paste, dates, vanilla, activated charcoal, himalayan pink salt. Snack was ‘crispy baobab & onion kale chips’.

Friend: Never mind.

I then went on to defend the choice of kale chips by explaining that I thought they were bacon & onion flavoured rather than baobab, and stating that the nutmilk was basically just a date and vanilla milkshake. Which it was, and a very tasty one at that. I enjoyed all my lunch immensely, but it brings me nicely to what I wanted to focus on in this post.

Initially, and to some extent still (see this post), I’ve been defending myself whenever I let people know these things about me that I’m calling ‘obnoxious’. But more and more recently I’ve been asking myself why? There’s nothing wrong with liking things, or being curious.

For example, starting to like One Direction. I’ve basically ignored their existence for the majority of their career so far, being someone who neither watches the X Factor nor keeps up with what’s in the charts. But I really like their latest album, I think their music is catchy, and I think they seem like fun/interesting people to know from what I’ve seen in recent interviews. They’re my age-ish (oldest is a few weeks younger than me). I’ve not gone rabid over them, I’m still not a huge fan of their earlier work, but I like them. And I can tell you exactly what started it:

12:12 in… you listen to that and tell me you’re not impressed. I like singing. I want to be able to do that with my voice.

As for the food things, wanting to try a juice cleanse and eating baobab powder etc… there’s no morality involved here. Doing these things doesn’t make me a good person, nor does it make me a bad person. Yes, I like to try new fads – but some of them don’t remain fads. I’ve been eating kale and quinoa for years – quinoa because cheese and spinach quinoa is both cheap and tasty, and so perfect student fare – and I like them. I’m not just following a trend of what’s cool, they’re long-held staples of my diet.

My parents often talk about how, when they were younger, they couldn’t get half the things that are available now. The area where they live is a bit of a food desert even now, but when they were younger (and were in poorer, working class families) mushrooms were a treat. Broccoli wasn’t in the shops. You didn’t get bananas. Everything that my sister and I had regularly in our diet growing up, my parents remember not having when they were children.

Often – though admittedly not from my parents, who are used to my food habits by now – I hear this used as an argument against trying new ‘in’ foods or against having something ‘exotic’ (or, ‘obnoxious’) in your cupboard. But why should it be? No, my parents – and many others – didn’t have the opportunities that I’ve got. There are many, many people who still don’t. But, prior to the last few years, I didn’t have all those opportunities either. Why, when I came across kiwi berries for the first time just before Christmas, would I decide not to try them simply because they weren’t something I’d been able to try in the years previously, or because they definitely weren’t accessible for my parents?

It would be a different matter if I were trying to suggest that everyone should have the same eating habits as me. I know I’m privileged – I have a decently paid job, I’m single, I live in central London. I have both the means to buy and the means to access new or more expensive foods. It would be ridiculous to suggest that someone struggling to pay their bills should buy coconut oil, when olive oil or rapeseed-based vegetable oil is a lot cheaper and in the long run makes little difference – to the flavour, yes, to the ability to cook your food in oil, no. Student-me wouldn’t buy cavolo nero, she’d buy a bag of sliced mixed greens. I’m pro-avocado, but if a friend is making minimum wage and working 60 hours a week to pay her rent, I’m going to suggest they’re not a major component of her diet. You can make tomato sauce just as easily with store-brand tinned chopped tomatoes as you can with fresh on-the-vine.

And food deserts are obviously still a thing. I remember visiting home in my first year at university – home being the town of Kirkby in the north-west of England – and deciding I wanted a salad for lunch. Being used to central London, I was expecting to see a variety of tasty healthy salads – since I usually shopped in a tiny Tesco in London at the time, and we were in a large Tesco on the outskirts of Liverpool. There was not a single salad in the shop at that time which wasn’t completely covered in mayonnaise and 700+ calories. There were about 5 to choose from. Unless I bought the raw ingredients myself, which I didn’t do because I didn’t have the time to prepare anything, I could not buy anything to eat that was as healthy as I wanted.

I’m not saying eating a salad covered in mayonnaise is the worst thing in the world to eat, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted something light and fresh. There were very few healthy ready-made lunch options. We were in Liverpool because Kirkby itself does not have a major supermarket, as far as my family are aware. My parents now shop predominantly online because they don’t want to be limited to an Iceland or have to drive 8 miles to the Tesco in Prescot.

It’s not obnoxious to try new things and like them. To go with what’s ‘in fashion’ and enjoy yourself. If you have the means to do so and want to spend your money on a sous-vide machine then you do you! I am a little envious – I’d love to try it, but it’s a little out of my budget at the moment. But if you’re enjoying it, I’m glad. Over 16 and admitting you like pop music? Great! Most of us actually do, we just don’t like to admit it. It’s not obnoxious to feel you can’t live without your spiraliser. It’s obnoxious if you try to suggest others should do the same.