There is an excellent, Chipotle-like burrito place called Anna’s Taqueria in the Boston area. In high school, my friends and I would make the 20-minute drive to Anna’s, get our burritos or quesadillas (my go-to), and speed back while eating in the car.
The quesadillas are delicious. Instead of making them in the traditional flat bread style, they do it more like a fried burrito.
When I travel back home now on vacation, I always stop by Annas a few times.
Now, since my Epicurean month overlaps with my vacation time at home and I’ve tried to somewhat restrict my diet during my vacation, I’ve noticed a few things about eating and pleasure that may be useful to you.
Scarcity is its own form of pleasure
As a kid, your parents probably restricted your candy or other treat intake. If you went to the grocery store with them, they would let you get “one thing” and you would have to make a careful decision about the one thing you wanted to get.
Needless to say, when you got that one thing, you really savored it.
As an adult, you’re not really restricted to just one thing. When I want some chocolate, I just walk over to the CVS across the street and buy it (Lindt Truffles are my favorite). If I want to order pizza, I just call up Naked Pizza and order the Superbiotic and it’s at my door in a half hour.
These things are good, but because they are not scarce, I don’t enjoy them as much as I enjoy an Anna’s quesadilla when I’m visiting my parents.
So perhaps it’s wise to create artificial scarcity when it comes to our food choices. We should eat the same “boring” things 90% of the time and eat delicious things 10% of the time.
Although, if I had the choice of eating Anna’s whenever I want, I’m not sure I’d be able to observe that rule.
We often eat to reduce pain
Epicureans tended to focus on removing sources of pain and displeasure over procuring positive pleasures. However, I’m finding that I tend to not do anything about pain or displeasure, and simply “make up” for it via some other positive pleasure.
For example, if I had a stressful day at work, I sometimes have a beer or jack and diet coke (who needs the calories, right?) at the end of the day and I enjoy the sweet, sweet feeling of drunkenness that makes everything seem perfectly wonderful.
I did not remove the root source of stress, which is work. Rather, I simply treated the symptoms of work with a positive pleasure.
It’s the same way with eating most of the time. If you are bored or stress, eating something tasty relieves the boredom or stress temporarily. It’s a positive but temporary remedy for what ails you.
Over time though, this type of eating only serves as a sort of distraction for attaining true pleasure, or ataraxia.
Food is a great social lubricant
If you live in a major city, you have probably taken part in recently-modernized ritual of brunch. After a boozy Saturday night, you’ll invite your friends to go out to an overpriced meal of breakfast foods and mimosa late Sunday morning or early afternoon.
Though the food is good, the enjoyable part is really getting together with your friends. The food is just an excuse to get together.
I used to have many more excuses to get together with friends. In high school I used to skateboard and would invite friends to go skate. Of course, skateboarding itself was fun, but skateboarding with others was more fun. I also played basketball after school with a bunch of people. Basketball was somewhat fun, but I never played on my own. It was a social thing.
Now, my excuses to socialize are generally food/drink centric. I rarely invite people to just “hang out,” which is a shame, because it would be cheaper and potentially more fun and interesting.
Food alone is generally not that enjoyable, and if we don’t pay attention, we could mistake the root cause of pleasure and joy associated with food for the food itself. This mistake can cause us to gain unnecessary pounds and lead us to neglect the things that cause us pain and displeasure.
To avoid this problem, let’s remember the words inscribed on the gate of Epicurus’ garden
Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure. The caretaker of that abode, a kindly host, will be ready for you; he will welcome you with bread, and serve you water also in abundance, with these words: “Have you not been well entertained? This garden does not whet your appetite, but quenches it.