When I was little, I lived in fear of not having enough food. My family is Southern (yes, in this case, the “S” should be capitalized), so that fear was wholly unfounded. Each holiday was themed by great food–fried chicken on Sundays (which are a holiday in the old South, at my MeMa’s, for 3 pm dinner), hamburgers and hot dogs on the 4th of July, and turkey PLUS ham every Thanksgiving. Desserts were not optional. My grandmother made a ridiculously huge black forest cake at Christmas, at times towering close to a foot and a half, and my Aunt Isabel was a whiz at all things sweet and strawberry-based (for a funny book on Southern hospitality and how food is central to that, check out Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Lady’s Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral). In short, food is the order of the day, even on your last day.
And yet, I lived in fear of not having enough. I would hide food in my room–in my closet, under my bed. Why? I don’t fully know. I’m sure any Psych 101 student with a C average would tell you that my family falling apart at a young age (divorce, deaths of beloved family members) in a short span of time meant I filled loss with food. Whatever the reason, I clung to this irrational fear and didn’t stop hiding food until well into college.
This old fear resurrects at various times and affects adult behavior. If you’ve been to my house for any holiday, you know I never don’t have enough. I over order, over cook, and over serve. The biggest sin to my family of origin was running out of food. In the South, running out of food is Simply. Not. Done.
Since changing my shopping, cooking and eating habits, I’ve reflected a great deal on the role food played in my early life. It was celebration and failure to me. It was the best part of every holiday, and the worst part of my guilt.
It is an interesting change to buy only what one needs in the short term. It is a struggle to remind myself I can come back next week, and 12 leeks or 24 eggs are just too many. It is also not yet a reflex for me to reflect, when I want to put down amazing organic apples, a lovely wedge of locally made cheese or a small tub of artisan hummus as too expensive to deserve, that I choose to spend my money on quality food, that my family (and I) am worth it, and if I don’t like it, the world doesn’t end. No more guilt over “starving children in Africa.” There is a way to contribute to the fight of the undernourished, and it is not by spending $1.50 less on apples.
Tonight my husband made zucchini fritters. They were tasty. It was nice to sit, talk and try something new.
It really does come down to allowing yourself to think enough of yourself to nourish your body properly. The extra benefit is that it is tasty and fun in the process.
Next time: Swimming and the (im)perfect body.