By Autumn Faughn Special to Published Jun 13, 2009 at 11:13 AM

After listening to me blather for an afternoon about what I love most about food, asked if I would like to put my money where my mouth is ... and I agreed.

I'll be blogging on food trends and finds, dinners out, dining in and other ways to make simple meals a little more memorable on the cheap. I'm a self-described food snob who'd rather eat a little of something amazing than a whole lot of empty calories.

I spend my days surrounded by food as a team member at Whole Foods Market Milwaukee. I married a culinary school graduate, and my meals at home could appear on the menus of Milwaukee's better restaurants. I occasionally feed my dogs gourmet cheese, I have eight different types of salt in my spice cabinet, and I have eaten food every day of my life.

Di-et: noun

1. a. food and drink regularly provided or consumed. b. habitual nourishment. c. the type of food prescribed for a person or animal for a specific reason. d. a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight

I'm not sure if it's a question of semantics, a question of education, or the questionably effective marketing to our citizens, but I'm convinced that Americans have disconnected from the real meaning of the word diet. Diet has several meanings and as a society we fail to remember that a diet can be defined as what you eat, not what you avoid. It's the last definition that we fixate on, to our detriment.

To test my theory, I've been asking friends, "What's the diet of a panda?" Commonly, their answer was bamboo. Sometimes, eucalyptus would be mentioned, failing to recognize that koalas, not pandas, consume the fragrant leaf. No one, and I mean no one, mentioned that a panda "cuts out carbs," "goes fat-free," or "eliminates sugar." When asked what their diets were like, I was told things akin to "I avoid full-fat dairy products" or "I don't trust myself with a pint of ice cream."

It's all too easy to consider diet in a verb form. We focus on what we eliminate, as many of us are trying to eliminate inches and pounds, myself included. The true test of your diet is in its longevity -- it is your habitual nourishment and should be what you celebrate on a daily basis. Eliminating things you enjoy denies you the pleasures that food should bring you, which should be considerable.

You know what? I don't trust myself with a whole pint of ice cream, either. That's why I keep it in the freezer, removing it from its frosty hiding place only when I need a scoop. I ceremoniously remove only the portion I desire, placing it in a small dish that belies its size. Garnished with my favorite topping, I savor every last bite, enjoying it for what it truly is ... an excursion from the everyday. Because, for the record, ice cream really isn't a part of my "diet."

Autumn Faughn Special to
Autumn Faughn spends her days surrounded by food as a Team Member at Whole Foods Market Milwaukee and her meals at home with friends could appear on the menus of Milwaukee's better restaurants. She feeds her dogs gourmet cheese, has eight different types of salt in her spice cabinet, and has eaten food everyday of her life.