Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 7 April 2011

food fight

i love food, and i love to eat. i’ve never been taught anything about food or cooking, really, so i tend to be a bit random in the kitchen. i rely heavily on cookbooks, but don’t mind improvising a bit if i have a basic outline to follow. i gravitate towards “peasant” style meals when left to my own devices.

i’ve never thought of myself as someone who has a difficult relationship with food. people with eating disorders and health problems have issues, not me, right? i was much taunted (especially in high school when i didn’t top 100) but have never been anorexic. i have been blessed in the genes department and have never dieted or counted calories ever. i don’t mindlessly snack or overindulge in sweets as therapy. for the majority of my life, though, i’ve eaten the sort of junky processed food that one can readily assume comprises the bulk of the standard American working-class diet. it’s what i grew up on, and patterns are difficult to break, no question.

one of the few signs of adulthood in my life is my still-new attention to food. i want to eat actual food. it sounds so easy. but i find myself constantly challenged by this simple-sounding ideal: eat real food. sometimes the challenge is financial. real food is expensive in this country. sometimes the challenge is temporal. i am juggling many obligations, and cooking takes time. ok. those are real issues. sometimes they will get in the way and sometimes they won’t. i can forgive myself these trespasses and resolve to do a little better. i can reassess and make adjustments. yet for the past six months, certainly, and probably well before that, i have not. i’ve not even seriously considered it except when i’ve whined about it.

i had dinner at the home of a new friend last night, and his partner made us a beautiful thoughtful elegant meal. just flat out beautiful food. i didn’t even offer to help her because it was so engrossing to see her so clearly in her element in the kitchen. and i stand now amazed. amazed to be welcomed into the home of someone i’ve met only a handful of times. amazed to be served this heartwarming repast prepared by a stranger. American culture largely relegates the ritual nature of meals to holidays, so i’m often unconscious of the liminal qualities of a shared meal. and this offering has left me stricken.

as i walked last night, i couldn’t get away from the inseparability of self-esteem and food: i have not liked myself much for quite some time and i have taken this out on myself partially through my food choices. or lack of food choices. by feeling defeatist and relinquishing control to convenience or circumstance. by filling up my time in other ways and not making time to take care of myself with well-prepared meals. i make a lot of excuses; i find a lot of external forces to blame. i pay just enough attention to be able to pretend that i’m not punishing myself with thoughtless resignation. and to be taken care of in this way in which i am failing myself by people i am only just getting to know is astonishing and generous. and it’s a lesson.

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