Grits shouldn’t have sugar in them

Nor should cornbread. And not everything needs cheese. Examples of two things that do not need cheese: cornbread and grits. Cornbread and grits do not need sugar and/or cheese. Blasphemy.

Food is tied in with identity, as is the case of my insistence that grits and cornbread needn’t have sugar in them. My husband begs to differ on the grits and made me try grits with sugar in them the other day. He made the argument that was how it was done when he was stationed in Georgia many years ago, which was to counter the argument that I spent my summers with family in Tennessee when I was growing up and was not taught to add sugar to grits. We have had this disagreement for several years. I finally agreed to try them. They tasted like a five year old crushed up stale kettle corn in a bowl of water and squished it all together with tiny fingers. To each their own, I guess.

A lot of rules about food come from broader culture, faith traditions, and family norms. Food keeps us alive, food keeps us connected. Food is ritualistic and communal – wedding cakes, barbecues, Thanksgiving dinners, and potlucks. Rules for a particular food can vary by region, like sugar and grits (Which admittedly is no less Southern as grits without sugar, it just happens to be gross). Food has a funny way of bringing people together.

Except people who more or less don’t feel togetherness don’t often bond over food. Food-prominent events are at best awkward and at worst prompting events for self-destructive behavior. There is no quick advice for these people that hasn’t already been heard a million times over. Cope ahead, positive/rational self-talk, just eat anyway and don’t hate yourself for it, stay in the moment, etc. etc. Not bad advice, just won’t fix anything in the long-term.

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Ritual and Blood, Honor and Death

Today I decided to add a theme to my Firefox browser, and I choose one based on Japanese tattoos. I then decided to put “Japanese tattoos” into Google, which led me to reading the Wikipedia article on the Yakuza and then reading about the presence of women in Western mafias on a Canadian website. I noticed two things: one, my Internet habits are a reflection of my thought patterns and two, organized crime groups require members to adhere to various traditions and rituals that apply to more than criminal behavior.

I also remembered a brief article I read on anorexia mirabilis (full text here), which led me to think further on how rituals are things humans seem to do regardless of who they are, what they believe, and where they live. Ritual is a framework and brings comfort, it can make things otherwise nonsensical legitimate. Once learned it is difficult and rattling and possible to unlearn. Ritual can be bedded into sense of self, or be viewed as a hassle, or viewed as menacing, or all of the above.

Ritualistic does not morality make. Mob codes of conduct do not negate murder. Extreme food restriction isn’t about spirituality. Structure does not make things moral. Intention matters in the case of morality – if one’s intention is entirely self-serving, there is a chance it isn’t entirely moral.