An Argument for Eating Everything

By Maggie Deagon

“You are what you eat.” This idiom is usually associated with health, meaning that eating unhealthy foods willmake you feel bad, and on the flip side, eating well will make you feel good. While googling this popular phrase,I found that a British television series about dieting adopted the name, and similarly, cookbooks and multiple diet plans make the statement as well. For me though, I tend to associate this phrase with something more than nutrition—something more personal.

maggie BBQ
Here I am grilling my mom’s lemon chicken recipe at the lake in Echo Park.

maggie and momma
My momma instilled in me a love for food, and I return that love with food back to her!

If I asked you to describe home, would you think to mention taste? What I eat not only reflects my health but also where I come from. When asked to name my favorite food, I’ll reply, “Anything my mom makes,” because it tastes like home. Of course, I was blessed with a great chef of a mom, who enjoys doctoring up recipes from our Italian heritage, as well as those she reads about in books and online. I try to continue this tradition by returning to my grandma’s cookie recipes every Christmas. Both generations of women have mentored me in the kitchen, so each dish I make comes with a story—incidental and recurring alike. There was the time my mom forgot she was boiling eggs on the stovetop until the water dried up and the eggs exploded across the kitchen; small pieces of yolk were hidden on the floor for days. More times than I can count, my mom has asked me if a dish needs more cheese, and the answer is always the same – you can never have too much cheese.

maggie feeding
Cross-cultural ice cream crossing friends in Brazil.

By eating, we can come to know someone more intimately.This happens on multiple levels. Consider for example when someone cooks you a meal; that person’s cooking style and sensibilities infuse their food with their personality and, by consuming the meal, you come to be closer to them.  Even if the person with whom you share a meal did not make the food, the choice of restaurant or eatery may point to a certain characteristic of you or your eating partner, allowing you to both know each other better.  The mere act of sharing a meal can lso be a  vulnerable activity— both parties are forced to manage the silence when chewing, and there’s always the threat of embarrassing moments (food sticking to one’s face or between teeth). It might not be obvious, but over time (or sometimes even after one meal), eating together teaches us things about one another we may have otherwise no known.

maggie large dinner
In Korea, I made some of my best friends over meals! Here’s our group sharing savory pancakes and drinks in Seoul.

Because I believe that meals are imbued with heritage and history, I eat adventurously to explore new worlds. I am an enthusiastic eater—a passionate foodie—and I’ll try anything once. Why would I want to close off the possibility of the unknown, whether it is a delectable flavor or an intriguing story attached to the food? Eating only what we know is tempting, but by doing so, we deny ourselves the chance to find something extraordinary or know someone more deeply. Tap into your sense of taste and experience your life fully!

Featured image by Stefan Vladimirov on Unsplash; all body images are author’s own

Maggie is a senior pursuing a double major in Spanish and Social Sciences (with an emphasis in Psychology) and a minor in Korean Studies. Since she was born and raised in Los Angeles, she has been exposed to many cultures, and she developed a strong interest in learning more about the world around her and the people it holds. Last summer, she traveled to Korea with the Global East Asia program and fell in love with the culture (and the food). Her hobbies include running, reading, watching movies, cooking/baking, and writing.