Beyond Brushstrokes

Foodies fit into different categories and sub-classifications. Omnivore, carnivore, pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan, and flexitarian. The variations are growing.

They are fastidious and fussy or adventurous and exotic. A chasm separates the glutton who lives to eat and the ascetic who nibbles just to survive. Between the extremes is a collection of characters whose food preferences range from soul to vegetarian, from gourmet to junk.

One must remember that self-esteem, status, diet, figures, are closely interlinked. What you eat and how you eat reveal clues about your personality and socioeconomic background.

In the universal spectrum of food, there are limitless and creative forces for every taste. The herbivores eat fresh, natural, organic vegetables, plant-based food. “Healthy but boring,” scoffs the carnivore. Now meat-lovers can have organic, grass-fed meat. Vegetarians are usually slim, trim and are more placid. The do not have the health issues and temperament of the bon vivant who suffers gout, heart disease, arthritis. The simple food diet consists of fiber — brown rice, veggies and fruits that are conducive to meditation. Many spiritually evolved individuals are vegans or vegetarians. (But not all vegetarians are spiritual.)

The discriminating gourmet considers fine dining as one of the greatest pleasures in life. He seeks and savors the best restaurants that serve delicacies and fresh ingredients. This search could be in the local scene or on journeys to distant countries to dine at Michelin rated restaurants. It is a ritual of sniffing and tasting the red and white wines or champagne that complement the various dishes and cheeses.

Gourmets come in assorted packages — robust, lean, or curvy. The gourmand is the rotund with an enormous appetite. His blood test could have borderline cholesterol and uric acid levels. The omnivore enjoys all types of food in moderation. The extreme version is the voracious, overweight glutton who devours food as though it were going out of style. He loves everything excessively rich and forbidden.

The food junkie thrives on instant gratification — fast food with sodas, snacks with sodium and trans fats.

Food cravings have a psychological significance. Chocolate has a “feel good” pheromone, a chemical that simulates the “high” of falling in love — endorphins and oxytocin. Feeling blue, one tends to binge on chocolate. Compulsive eating disorder is an addiction — like shopping.

(Who cares about calories?)

Insecure, ambivalent individuals have the tendency to use food as a crutch. It masks anxiety, inadequacy and stress.

Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia plague people with low self-esteem problems, stress or frustration. They pacify the pangs by constant eating or by starving themselves. Eating is “tiresome,” they rationalize.

The trend is size zero or two for celebrities, actresses, and models in Hollywood and in the fashion industry. They have to fit well into the best designers’ samples. The hazard of over-dieting is that the body can only take a limited amount of punishment. Too much starvation and sudden bingeing can cause an imbalance of electrolytes, hormones, and chemicals that can be fatal.

In certain countries around the world, festivities revolve around food. In the local setting, food is the centerpiece of business meetings, social events — weddings, baptisms, and wakes.

One observes that it has become a status symbol to celebrate with food served in a stylish manner. Thus, prestige and ego are linked with the quality and quantity of food.

Business corporations prefer to hold conferences and awards dinners at hotels with special amenities and good meals.

A company with a modest budget can have a fun picnic at a resort with barbecues, games and raffle prizes.

The flamboyant theme parties have spectacular décor, superstar entertainment and fireworks. Guests always remember the lavish buffet with imported blooms, roast carvings, and the range of desserts — chocolate fountain, fondue, and exotic fruits. Decades ago, an iconic anniversary party had the ultimate luxury — a champagne fountain. That event was opulent in the manner of royals and aristocrats who lived in a bygone era.

Filipino hospitality is legendary. An unexpected visitor will always be welcome to share a meal — no matter how simple are the dishes. The gracious host may refrain from eating so that the surprise guest may dine well. This gesture is spontaneous and sincere.

Food tastes better with convivial company and in the proper ambiance. It is a form of bonding. A catered, elegant sit-down dinner and the home-cooked meal are both pleasurable when there is the true bon appétit spirit.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.