Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How I feed myself

I don't love to eat.
Sure, sometimes a basket of hot fries is brought to my table, and I dip the day's stress into vinegary ketchup, chatting as fast as I can with a girlfriend, gobbling down strips of potatoes who so selflessly gave their lives so that I could have this moment of salty, wonderful goodness, punctuated by the laughter of me and whatever awesome friend is sitting across from me.
In those moments I can raise a glass to potatoes and Idaho and all that.
But to be honest I'm more focused on the glass. I've always been more of a beverage person. I feel like the most common complaint you hear from children is: "I'm hungry!" but I don't remember saying that to my parents for most of my childhood. (And not just because I was so lucky to never have to be hungry as a child).
I do have vivid memories, though, of coming inside from riding my bike in the driveway, pressing a giant plastic cup against the fridge's ice dispenser, watching frozen blocks fill the space inside, then impatiently waiting for the tiny stream of filtered water to fall into enough of the glass so I could yank it away from the spout and pull it to my greedy mouth.
For most of my child and adult life, I've always had a beverage close, but food has always been an afterthought. I forget to eat. I make myself eat so that my moods don't fall off a cliff. I don't eat for the fun of it. As my friend Courtney says, I eat to live.
Jill asked me to write about how I feed myself, and to be honest the prompt has my head reeling. I feel like there's so much to say, and it's all over the place and wow I don't eat vegetables!
Well I've sat with my thoughts for a while here, and I've tried to organize myself a bit. So here come some headings, in bold. Look out, friends. Grab a snack, and enjoy the ride.
1. I am the queen of snacks, and all things processed.
The vast, vast majority of what I eat comes from a box or bag. I make excellent Kraft mac 'n cheese, and I have purchased many bags of Cool Ranch Doritos at gas stations for emotional support. I do currently have some vegetables in my freezer, but I haven't heated them up recently.
2. I love to feed others more than I love to feed myself.
I don't say this as an overarching metaphor for who I am as a person. But I really do enjoy cooking for other people. I love cooking for Alex, whom I call my Enthusiastic Eater. He is the most excited, appreciative audience for my lentils and curries. I do it very rarely, but I really do love making soup, or tacos, or rice and beans for friends, and hearing them gush and ask for seconds. I love playing the mother hen.
3. When I do cook, I go for the extreme (ish).
I almost always follow recipes with a Middle Eastern or African bent. I don't do this to be some cosmopolite show-off, but because I really enjoy the flavors, and the more I can get excited about the food, the more likely I am to follow through with the actual preparation of it. Sometimes things flop, but luckily, a lot of things turn out really well. Some faves are here and here.
4. I crave a full table.
(This is a metaphor for who I am as a person.) My family of six always ate dinner together. I didn't realize until high school that this was considered strange by some of my friends, and it was at that point that I began to consider it laudable. That was a lot of work for my parents, both working full time, to come home and assemble a meal and all their kids around a table for 30 minutes. With this as my base, I don't think I've ever recovered, and I think honestly this is why I struggle to eat like a "normal" person as a single adult. Since I'm never crowded around a loud table, with several people trying to get a story in edgewise, eating just never feels right, I guess. Which explains a lot, I think.
5. I admit it: I eat in bed.
Yeah. Like pretty much all the time. Unless I'm over at Alex's, where we eat on the couch. I only eat at tables when I'm at a restaurant (and I request a booth when I can).
6. I eat like a distractible bird.
I have a hard time finishing a bagel, Friends. This comes back to the eating alone thing. I always have TV or music going, or I'm writing or talking on the phone while I'm eating, because I can't bring myself to just sit and only eat. So unless I'm feeling ravenous (ironically, a raven is a bird), I just peck at things and forget that they're there.
7. I guess I'm a weird eater, but I think most of us probably are?
For as much lack of ritual and routine I have with my eating, I feel like there are others who are irrationally tied to theirs when it comes to food. I don't know. I guess, in writing about this, I've realized this is more complicated than I thought. I didn't feel the need to break down and cry, but I also realized that there is more emotion underneath the macaroni noodles and the Dorito crumbles than I thought. Eating is something I like to rush through or past or around, and that wasn't always the case. I feel like maybe I should work on that, since I have to do it for a long time yet.
What about you? How do you feed yourself?

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