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GASTRONOMY
Columns
Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

Just admit it – we all like eating junk food sometimes

We eat not only to nourish our bodies but also to revel in the joy of life and savor our freedom

Comida basura
FERNANDO HERNÁNDEZ / Getty
Maria Nicolau

Who is beautiful, redheaded, big-assed and divine? The one who romped around chasing rabbits and came home at dawn in a regal walk of shame, smiling from ear to ear and covered in fresh deer poop? Roma!

Roma is named after the Capitoline Wolf, a bronze sculpture that represents the goddess Luperea, protector of flocks from wolf attacks. In the most popular version of the myth, a she-wolf in the seventh century nursed two abandoned babies, Romulus and Remus, and saved their lives. Years later, the twins established the city that became the capital of the Roman Empire.

When I first saw her 11 years ago on a hot August weekend, her name came to me instantly. I was very pregnant, and had waddling outside to go buy water. There she was — an orangish puppy, just a few months old, bravely navigating the chaos of a busy intersection in Barcelona.

I’ve never been much of a pet lover. And I’ve never understood why people put them in cages or tie them up, especially in harsh urban environments. But on that day, I acted without hesitation. I raised my arm like Gandalf and boldly stepped into the street, stopping cars with a shout, “How do you expect this poor creature to understand all that honking?” I grabbed the pup by the scruff of the neck, just like her mother would have done, and pulled her out of there. Then, I took her to the vet and left her in good hands.

A couple of hours later, the phone rang. The vet’s office was closing in 10 minutes. The puppy, about four months old, had no identification chip or visible health issues besides the recent scare. On Monday, she would head straight to the pound.

Roma moved in with my daughter and me, and thrived like no other when I chose to relocate to the countryside.

Out in the countryside, it’s easier to enjoy homemade and healthy meals. If I were to order from the nearest pizzeria on a Friday afternoon, I’d be out of luck. There’s no delivery service here, so you have to pick up your food. It’s more convenient to do a weekly or biweekly grocery run to keep your pantry stocked with essentials and treats.

When I buy a whole chicken or a large cut of beef or pork, I put all the leftover cartilage, tendons, bones and scraps in a pot to simmer in water for a few minutes. Then, I store the broth in the fridge to season Roma’s food. Feeding our dog raw chicken could endanger the neighbor’s live chickens if Roma mistakes them for snacks one day.

Near my house, there’s a flock of sheep. All of us who live around here know the shepherd’s schedule and work habits. He makes sure they’re all tagged with bells, so everyone knows where they are. This way, I can walk Roma without a leash, knowing there won’t be any close encounters with sheep.

Rome is currently immobilized with bone pain. She gets stiffness from overexertion that lingers for a few days. I know she feels frustrated by the limitations of her aging body. Still, she knows that enjoying life’s simple pleasures — all the lovely outdoor scents like rabbits and fresh deer poop — are worth the occasional indulgence. Personally, I’m not keen on eating a lot of sweets, knowing it will lead to heartburn and sleepless nights. Roma only escapes a few times a year; I can’t bring myself to keep her indoors or tied up like in the city.

A woman recently attacked me in the supermarket, shouting, “Look at Nicolau, the champion of healthy eating! This photo is going right on Twitter!” I had been caught red-handed putting a couple of bags of Cheetos and mini-donuts in my cart.

We eat not only to nourish our bodies, but also to revel in the joy of life and savor our freedom. Living without contradictions is akin to fanaticism. Lady, I refuse to surrender to your terrorist threats. Just admit it — we all like to eat junk food sometimes.

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