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2016 Was the Year of Political Hate and Disagreement, Can We Do Better with Food?

December 31, 2016

2016 is leaving many of us with an acrid taste in our tongues. The year saw the most divisive arguments that tore friendships apart, and had strangers flinging insults at each other that would make even Kanye’s foul-mouthed jaw drop. Just a scroll down Mocha Uson‘s Facebook page is enough to make me wonder how humanity got this far in the first place.

In the online space where nothing is sacred, even food was not spared from the drama that pervaded the cyber world. Online personalities like @masarapba, with their frank and humorous micro-reviews, frequently incites rage-filled comments that were not quite justified and in many cases ironic. (I stopped reading after seeing a commenter’s innuendo comparing another commenter’s private part to a buchi ball, while stating in the same comment that we respect one another.)

I get that the visceral experience of food that you truly love can feel very personal when said food sounds like it is being attacked, but remember that no matter how much people say you are what you eat, never take it literally. Food should not be the cause for division, especially when in the Philippine context it is unequivocally tied to celebration.

One person’s stance on the latest smokehouse is not remotely as relevant on a social scale as their stance on lowering the age of criminal liability. Unlike politics, food should be a venue where we can agree or disagree without consequence. So long as we know how to disagree.

steak

When we’re talking about food, how much is truly at steak?

If you like your steak well-done instead of as bloody as hygienically possible, accept that many gourmands will disagree with you. That does not mean you are not entitled to like your steak how you like it. But you also do not have the right to lord over your preference as the only way that steak should be eaten.

pizza

When divided on the pizza issue, thank goodness for pizzas you can split.

Or take one of 2016’s favorite foodie battles to stoke the fires of: pineapples. Do they belong on pizza or not? I personally do not like my pizza tasting like I spilled a poolside drink on it, but what do I have to gain by holding your pineapple proclivity against you? Writers (or food critics who use writing as their tool) oft use metaphors as best they can to describe something to the reader that the reader may not have experienced themselves. The imagery of a piña colada-soaked pizza is not an insult but a playful description of my personal pineapple-pizza experience, and not an accusation of any kind towards people who order “Hawaiian” pizzas.

Technical food disagreements are valid if we have the knowledge to back up claims. Whether we’re a chef or not, we have the right to have our voice in the greater discussion of food. But, like in debate club, we don’t make claims based on scanned headlines, something our mommas told us, or our own social echo chamber.

If we disagree on technique or ingredients, be constructive. Think about getting ready for the big new year’s eve night out. You ask your friend for their opinion on your outfit. You could have one of two reactions: “You look like a teletubby on crack,” she says, as she glances up from Instagram for a quick second and promptly continues to scroll through her newsfeed. Or, “You look like a teletubby on crack,” she laughs, as she jumps off the bed and grabs a pair of dark heels in one hand and lipstick in the other, thrusting it your way with a, “Here. This will look much better.”

ingredients

The more arrogant we are, the more the recipient is likely to resist our feedback, chalking up our saltiness to our character. Why bother giving criticism at all if it seems to be for our own sadistic pleasure? Thoughtless criticism only makes us lose credibility as a critic. But if we are earnest in our comments for the sake of the recipient being able to improve, our constructive feedback could push them to be better.

Learning to accept feedback and not take it personally comes hand in hand with the practice of giving it as well. Be able to distinguish humor for mean-spiritedness. Laugh along with the former, dismiss the latter. At a time like this, the human race does not need to create more reasons to be divided.

As we gladly bid a strange year good riddance, we look forward to 2017 with the hope that less friendships will be ruined, and more bridges built than walls. The best way that we don’t end up just picking up where we left off is by being the change we want to see in the greater discourse. So let’s give it a second thought before hitting send.

Bea Osmeña SEE AUTHOR Bea Osmeña

Bea Osmeña is a healthy-ish eater who is just as likely to take you to a vegan joint as she is to consume a whole cheese pie to herself. A former picky eater, Bea has discovered the joys of savory fruit dishes, but still refuses to accept pineapples on her pizza. On the rare occasion you catch her without food in her mouth, you are likely to find her looking at books she can't afford, hugging trees, or talking to strange animals on the street.

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