The issue of what we eat or drink is often considered to be trivial, a personal matter that has no larger significance and is thus unworthy of philosophical attention when important matters like the meaning of life or the definition of free will are at stake.
But this is a grotesquely short-sighted view.
Our resource- intensive way of life, supported by an economic system that requires constant growth, is unsustainable especially because the rest of the world would like to emulate it. For example, it is estimated that if everyone in the world consumed our meat-heavy diet, we would need two planet earths to supply sufficient land, feed, and water.
In the very near future, we will have to live differently, and that means, fundamentally, learning to desire differently—and to desire food differently.
How we refine desires and pleasures and attend to their moderation, balance, and harmony has been a philosophical topic since the Ancient Greeks. That discourse has never been more important than it is today and our food desires must now lie at the center of that discourse. Food is our most basic material need and ties together a vast number of issues from environmental concerns, to considerations of social justice, to the nature of human happiness all are tied to how we manage our desires. To ignore food as a philosophical issue is to ignore that foundational discourse regarding the management of desires that has been central to philosophy’s history.
And the process of learning to desire differently must begin by finding that place where beauty, pleasure and a focus on things that have intrinsic value occupy our attention. Finding extraordinary meaning in simple things and their particularity, such as a meal or a bottle of wine, is the most accessible path to a good life in this damaged world.
A concern for taste is the first step in shaping our desires toward more sustainable forms.