As I sit here near the point of copious salivation in a manor reminiscent of Pavlov’s dog, infatuated with my friend Mekkah’s ketchup laden fries, my thoughts drift back to my younger years. When my relationship with food was cast in the annals of my psyche. Food was and at times still is my constant companion, my lover, my friend, my enemy.
In processing my relationship with food with my therapist, my friends, and anyone else who’ll listen (thanks for reading in advance), I’ve stumbled upon some long forgotten stories that have helped me make sense of my strange love of food. I’ll share a few here.
Food as a the spoils of war.
To say my brother Curtis and I fought as children would be severely minimizing the fact that he saw my birth as an official act war, an affront to his very existence. Curtis’s disdain for me probably lay in the fact that he’d been the “baby” for five years before I brought my unexpected ass along. Our battles varied in intensity, but there was no other area where the battle got quite as hot as when the source of conflict was The Cap’n.
In our desperate need to get “crunchatized”(which I don’t think was even a term back then), we would outwit, steal, hide and any other unsavory act we had to commit. Alas, I was often at the losing end of this battle, but there was one triumphant morning that me and Alteric (our brother from another mother) got the jump on Curtis the sleeping dragon. We beat him to the freshly purchased box of Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries and proceeded to remove every crunch berry in the box.
Saturday morning cartoons were funnier, the sun was shinier, and our bellies were stuffed full of crunchaliscious crunch berries. This state of rapture lasted for maybe thirty/forty minutes. When Curtis awoke to find a severely misshapen box of Cap’n Crunch sans any sign of crunch berries save for tell-tale red dust, There was hell to pay. Quite honestly, I forgot what happened. I think I blacked out. Hell, I probably repressed it. If I had to guess, I’d say I got the natural hell beat out of me, then he probably turned his rage on Al, sitting on him and punching him in the chest until he ran home. I still had the day though, and as you can tell I relish the victory to this day.
The Lesson: Food obtained through violence, aggression, or Machiavellian scheming is the best kind.
Food as an analgesic.
It’s funny how other people remember your childhood. When the facebook revolution began and I reconnected with some of the folks I went to school with, I kept hearing stories of how funny and well liked I was. This was odd to me as I mostly remember feeling isolated, fat, unattractive, and picked on.
One particular year of school, my 6th grade year, I had a falling out with a group of girls that had been my “friends”. I was tormented for the entire year. I was called fat. They talked about my hair and my clothes. They took “children can be so cruel” to new heights. I spent most of that year feigning illness not to go to school, on the guidance counselor or nurse’s couch, and of course eating.
I would bolt home drop everything and head straight for the kitchen. Twinkies, Krimpets, Devil Dogs, Cereal (Cap’n or otherwise), pizza … essentially anything that wasn’t tied down, locked up. After eating I always “felt” better. None of the things I had endured that day mattered. My addict gene mutated that year, and became something that in my adulthood would nearly kill me.
As can be seen in the photo (taken only a year or two later), I’m wasn’t nearly as hideously fat and ugly as they made me feel or than I came to believe. I can’t say I lay any blame at the feet of the children who picked on me. It could have very easily have been me on the giving end had the circumstances played out differently. I don’t hate them, but I do hate what the situation did to my relationship with food and essentially anything else that was pleasurable that allowed me to escape.
The Lesson: You’d better not stop until you’ve eaten all your feelings young lady!
Food as the enemy.
I have the good fortune of having a great many food snobs in my life. They challenge me (sometimes successfully) to experiment with new tastes and textures. You see, my brother and I were and to some degree still are very bland eaters.* We barely did veggies, and while I would indulge in fruit fairly regularly that was about as far as it went.
Case in point: My mother was a single working mom of four. She worked long hours during the week which left us on a lot of evenings popping tater tots or fish sticks in the oven and Steak Umm’s or other ‘easy’ foods, on the stove. There were some occasions that Ma would get a wild hair and decide to fix us something “special”. Curtis and I had an “exit strategy” prepared for these times: a strategically cut hole in the kitchen screen. The undesirable food stuffs were simply shoveled out onto the grassy knoll outside our window. No harm, no foul … that is until we were finally caught.
Ma, for some ungodly reason, decided that it would be a great idea to prepare a tuna casserole. The foreign smells had our guards up already. We already knew what needed to be done. Time came to sup, and before us sat generous portions of Ma’s experimental meal. We waited. Sifted forks around. I even became brave enough to take a bite (either that or I’d been threatened. Can’t remember which.) Eventually the coast became clear and we proceeded to the window with our plates. One after the other we scraped the ill fated casserole out of the covert slit. Things would have went fine, except most of the casserole ended up on the window sill.
The next morning my mother was greeted by a swarm of pigeons devouring the meal we had so generously donated to them the night before. Our cover was blown. Needless to say we never dared dispose of another meal in this manner. We just found other ways. >:)
The Lesson: New food bad. Old food good.
Thirty-six years of practicing this and other kind of “bad” food behaviors can’t be undone overnight, but I’m working on it. The hardest part I’d have to say is adding new food. My brain goes into resistance mode, and even when I manage my way through the meal, it tells me I’m not full. Odd indeed, but I have managed to introduce some new items that I’ve found quite delightful like: Hummus and Sushi … the cooked kind. I’ll keep eating, you keep reading (hopefully), and maybe one day I’ll be a certified food snob … MAYBE.
*I’m gonna go ahead and say that my brother was probably the source of 85% of my hang ups with food. (Sorry Curtis, pero es verdad).