Do You Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

A  friend recently admitted to me something about himself which I found rather interesting and surprising: he believes that eating is a waste of time and would skip it if he could.

Do You Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

That had me thinking and realizing why we have conflicted at times about having a meal: he eats to live; while I live to eat.

I can be particular about what I eat. I have been chided by readers of The Gate for not liking cheese, as I rarely ever eat it. I also do not care for nuts or most pork products…

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

…but interestingly, I usually eat food served aboard an airplane — whenever food is served aboard airplanes these days, as that is not always a given — which does not make much sense at times; but the food aboard an airplane has to be really bad for me not to eat it. Perhaps taste buds operate differently in enclosed spaces at high altitudes.

Bern’s Steak House restaurant Tampa filet mignon

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Much of the time, I enjoy eating. For example, there is nothing like a thick filet mignon which can be practically cut with a fork, with a nice flavorful sear on the exterior. I also enjoy pasta dishes and many types of seafood — keep that cuttlefish away from me, thank you — and I will never say no to freshly baked bread which is crusty on the outside and soft but slightly dense and hot on the inside.

Hilton Helsinki Strand

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Food is more than just flavor and satisfying a hunger to me. It is also an important way to experience a culture. Breakfast is by far my least favorite meal; but on my recent trip to eastern Europe, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the pickled herring, the dark rye bread with the very strong flavor, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pickles and olives for breakfast. Give that to me any day over pancakes with maple syrup — although I will not turn that down either.

Sauerkraut soup in a black bread container

Sauerkraut soup in a black bread container. Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Sauerkraut soup in Latvia? Draniki in Minsk? Yes, please — and more of that to come in future articles. I remember my first salade niçoise during my first trip to Paris; and I have not had anything comparable to that anywhere else. Chocolate in Antwerp; tanuki soba in Tokyo; crawfish etoufée in Baton Rouge; smoked salmon in Seattle; bife de lomo in Buenos Aires; pretzels in Munich; pastrami on rye with mustard in New York and sour pickles on the side — the list goes on and on.

Food safari Kenya

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The box lunch I had in Kenya while on safari totally surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. I even liked Vegemite on a baguette while I was in the Australian Outback near Uluru. Go figure. I was not as thrilled with Marmite in London; so I suppose I still have some semblance of normalcy.

Eating is also a social ritual for me when I am with someone. While I prefer to eat in a hotel room when I am traveling alone — I do at times commit to an effort of dining out alone when I travel — I enjoy discussing whatever comes to mind during a meal with a member of my family, a friend or a colleague. Often, I will work all day and skip lunch so that when the day has concluded and the work is finished, I can concentrate on relaxing and taking my time savoring a nice well-deserved meal.

Do you prefer to dine alone — or meet with someone with whom to eat?


There are many reasons why I enjoy eating enough that I live to eat. I suppose I take after my great grandfather. I will never forget when he was restricted to a diet low in sodium — he absolutely loved salt — I heard him say, “What is the point of living if I cannot enjoy what I eat?”

I must agree with him on that one. I cannot imagine going through life not enjoying what I eat, either; and not tasting some of the food in the places where I travel — for I live to eat.

All photographs ©2014, ©2015 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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