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Nothing defines who we are and what we are as much as food. Not race, ethnic background, employment, family, sexual orientation, religion or politics. How we choose to feed ourselves is the most personal of freedoms. It is our power, our way of controlling our environment, our statement of being.

Children do not have the power to decide what to eat. They may influence, but in the end they must either eat what Mom or Dad puts in front of them, or they do not eat at all. Adolescents know that the surest way to irritate parents is to criticize, denounce or refuse to eat the food that has been sustaining them all their lives. Rebellion can mean changing eating patterns completely.

We show our love through food. A special meal cooked especially for a significant other, a freshly baked cookie pressed into the hand of a favorite grandchild, a special afternoon spent with Dad and an ice cream cone, dinner dates, making veggie race cars with a preschooler, all those mean more than just eating.

Prisoners, who have absolutely no power over what they eat, know the power of the hunger strike.

Religions the world over know the power of the fast, the real or symbolic deprivation of food.

The most infuriating thing you can do is insult someone else's choice of diet. Telling a vegetarian "You can't possibly be getting enough" is a direct hit to the ego, a subconscious translation being: You don't know enough to feed yourself properly. Calling meat "dead flesh" and "murdered" will send an omnivore through the roof. It implies that an omnivore is less than human him/herself and a cannibal to boot.

If you really feel the need to comment on the way another person eats, don't. No matter where you stand, just don't. There is no 100% wrong way or 100% right way to eat, and no way is superior to all others. The human mouth contains both incisors and molars, meat tearing teeth and grain grinding teeth. How you choose to use your teeth is your own business.

There are enough battlefields on this planet as it is. The dinner plate should not be one of them.

Finally, and most importantly, if you live anywhere in North America I can guarantee that somewhere within five miles of your front door, someone is not getting enough of anything to eat. If you and your loved ones can go to bed not hungry, consider how fortunate you are.

Uhura :o)
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