What is "food"?
The answer to the question "what is food?" could be the same answer as you would give to another question: what is freedom?
So… what is food?
Think about this:
if we summed up everything humanity has ever called food in its whole history the world itself would be food. Everything would be food!
On the other hand, if we summed up all the constrictions and taboos concerning food, humanity would die of starvation within a generation. Nothing would be food.
So… what is food?
What do we eat?
Let's try to answer with the german saying “Mann ist was Mann isst”. It is clearly a wordplay since you can read it in two different ways: we are what we eat - and - we eat what we are.
From a physiological point of view it is true because we are made of food. We are made of food just like a garment is made of fabric. But this applies to everything. Plants and animals are made of what they feed on, as well.
But we want to understand what is mankind made of. So the question becomes: what are we made of? what is the essence we are made of?
"Der Mensch ist, was er isst"
If we read this german saying through the lesson of the german philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach its meaning changes drastically.
Now we becomes what we eat - and - we eat what we desire to become.
What does it means? What is that we need to become human? What is that we desire? What kind of food are we made of?
“desire is inconceivable without language”
Jacques Lacan would say we are literally made of language. Language is our fabric.
And, as Gianni-Emilio Simonetti has written: "GLI ATTI ALIMENTARI SONO STRUTTURATI COME UN LINGUAGGIO" (Food acts are structured as a language).
So… if we are we made of language, what is (our) food?
“A symbol is a sign which stands for its object in respect of a law”
Food is a word. ''Food'' is indeed primarily a word. And a word is a sign. But it is not an ordinary sign. Food is a symbol.
But... what is a symbol? "A symbol is a sign which stands for its object in respect of a law".
And there is nothing natural in between a word and its object just like there is nothing natural in human laws, just like there is nothing natural in human symbols, just like there is nothing natural in human food.
Only humans have symbols and food, because we have laws; because we have language. Only humans have laws, symbols... and food.
“every animal is in the world like water in water”
Animals do not have food, just like they do not have a body. Because they are their food, they are their body, they are their environment. Animals really are what they eat.
And this strict relation is what we call instinct.
"Labour is, first of all, a process by which man [...] acts upon external nature and changes it, and in this way he simultaneously changes his own nature."
But id does not apply to humans. Humans must learn their instinct. We must learn to eat: what to eat, when to eat, how to eat because our taste, just like our food, are symbolic.
They depend on a certain morality, on a certain ethics, on a certain tradition, on certain laws. That’s why human food is always artificial.
Human food does not exist in nature. What they call “natural food” is a name, is a brand, is a label, is a certification, is an imaginarium, is a business... but nothing related to Nature. And we are entirely made of this artificial and symbolic food.
We are all ARTIFICIALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS.
So… what is food? what are we made of? what is the essence of humanity? and... what is freedom?
“Culture is Man's nature”
We said: we are made of language, we are made of artificial food, we are symbolic. Food (what we call food), is a word, and its meaning, just like its taste, is established by the culture.
It seems we are not free at all. What we call Culture has established our gender, our name, our language, our taste, our food, our desire, our thought. We are literally made of language.
We are just like animals, although our ''instinct'' is cultural rather than natural.
“the limits of my world are the limits of my language and [...] I am my language”
Again… what is food? what are we made of? what is the essence of humanity? what is freedom?
It’s not about what, it’s about who and how and why... During the documentary film about Amy Winehouse at some point she starts speaking about the kind of music she used to sing before she had begun to write. She describes it as "crap" that someone else was writing for her and that she had to sing.
Music was her symbolic food. The music she used to sing was the food the culture was nourishing her with. Music was her food. Music was her symbol. Music was her language. Music was herself.
"Having listened to great songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King, I felt there was nothing new that was coming out that really represented me and the way I felt. So I started writing my own stuff.” (Amy Winehouse)
Her music was the way she made something from what she was made of.
“La cultura materiale esige di esserci fisicamente stati!”
Here comes the essence of our own food. Our food, what we eat and what we are, is symbolic. It means it is artificial. What does it means?
It means that we have the power – and the ensuing huge responsability – to make what we are made of.
Man has made himself a man in the kitchen. Man has made himself a man by creating his nature, his needs, his desire... his food.
Again… and for the last time: what is food? ‘'Food'' is the name of what we are made of. Food is the symbol of us. Food, whatever it is, is us. Food is what makes us, us.
“Dilige et quod vis fac”
So... what is freedom? Freedom is the work of making what makes us. Such an important task that we have to do it by ourselves.
Saint Augustine once said that we have only one law to follow: "Do [make] what you want."
We can translate it as: make your own food!