Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Haggis and the perils of travel

Haggis, neeps, and tatties (not in that order)
John: June 2, 2015: 235 Pounds/39% body fat.

Hello, my name is John Crawford. I am a librarian and I've spent the last three years or so working for the government in Germany. I will be leaving soon to take up a new position in the American South (land of barbecue). This does not bode well.

Since coming to Germany, I have gained roughly 30 pounds. Prior to that, I was already roughly 30 pounds overweight. So, not great. Many factors have contributed to my weight gain, but I'd like to use haggis as a means to discuss one of them.

Haggis, as I'm sure you know, is a Scottish delicacy. I'm relatively certain that delicacy, in this context means, "something used to eat when they had no other options, which is known seen as the quintessence of the culture's cuisine)." In any case, the traditional recitation of the process by which haggis is made can be found here. It is legendary in its "not-something-Americans-eat-except-on-a-dare"-ness. I like dares that involve my stomach.

I don't understand why I like them. I'm not an adrenaline junkie, nor would I ever knowingly place myself at risk of physical harm. I'm in the Alps right now and have no intention of ever requiring a climbing helmet of any sort. I'm timid in social situations and I'm not particularly physically strong. I'm nobody's image of a daredevil.

I actually think this is why self-imposed food dares appeal. It is like I am getting myself out of my shell, but with as little risk and as much self-aggrandizement as possible. After eating haggis, I can scandalize my fellow Americans by sharing the tale of doing something that Scots have done without a lot of fanfare for literally thousands of years. It is the least I can do to achieve a titillating story, so I'm willing to do it.

What this means, of course, is that I'm always up for eating something. Each portion, each "bad-for-me" foodstuff, is a little dare. I know I shouldn't eat this, but I will so I can prove something to myself (that I'm immortal, that I can eat anything, that I'm not confined by your dietitian's rules, something equally ridiculous).  The little jolt of dopamine (or something medically accurate) that I get from each little transgression is addictive.

One of the bad habits I need to overcome are these little dares. But it is doubly difficult while travelling. Where, outside of Scotland, am I going to find authentic haggis? If I don't try it while there, I might never get another opportunity. So whatever tiny scruples I might have against eating on a dare fly out the window. It doesn't help.

I'm not certain what to do about this. I don't want to stop eating exotic (to me) food. But I do want to stop the dares. They don't help. I suppose one thing to do would be to admit, to believe, that there is no such thing as "bad food." You can't transgress if there are no rules. And food, whatever its effects or ingredients, is morally neutral. So, one of the habits I'm trying to develop is to not need to think of food as good or bad, just as food.

Regarding haggis, it is not what you imagine as an ignorant American. I'd always imagined a wet stomach, full of gore and oats, being dropped on my plate. Instead, you get it as a bit of sausage or as a small pile of meat (and oats). There was nothing aesthetically displeasing about it at all in its appearance, odor, or taste. Very tasty, actually. The sort of thing I tend to eat too much of on a dare.