Food. First thought: Oliver Twist comes to mind, with the resounding chorus of young voices singing, "Food, glorious food!"
Oh, I do love food. I've never really been a picky eater, only turning my nose up at spinach, which Mom convinced me to eat by reminding me that Popeye, my hero, ate spinach to get stronger. It still tasted gross, but I managed to choke it down. (I should've chosen Wimpy as my hero. What kid can't force down a hamburger?)
Um, I think I exaggerated by saying I've never been a picky eater. At the dinner table, I was taught to be polite, and eat what is served, and to express my thanks to the cook. I could do that.
My pickiness reared its ugly head when it came to treats and snacks. My young friends thought I was the weirdest kid. The foods I disliked were potato chips and Cheetohs, hard candy, Kool Aid, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and mushroom soup served in a bowl. Oh! And watermelon. While I found the smell and taste inviting, I detested the grainy texture, and could not get past the way it felt in my mouth.
Every summer that I can remember, I have forced myself to take a bite of watermelon to see if my tastes have changed. I'm 53 years old, and I have done this for decades, always with a disappointing result.
UNTIL...we were at a casual gathering at a friend's home, and she served a watermelon salad. I watched with interest as she prepared it. After she cut the melon into large cubes, she sprinkled feta cheese, fresh basil, and a little salt and pepper on top. What have I got to lose? I thought to myself. I took a bite. And it was fabulous. I'd just been eating it wrong all of these years. Somehow, the delightful, savory flavor allowed me to get past my aversion to the texture, and I was hooked. I still don't want a naked bite of watermelon, though. It will have to be served just that way to convince me to eat it again.
If you believe there are two camps regarding food, those who live to eat, and those who eat to live, I suppose I identify with those who live to eat more than the other. I've tried the "eating to live" way, and it just isn't as much fun. After days of living to eat, I occasionally force myself to dabble in the eating to live mode.
Just two days ago, I decided to make a green smoothie for breakfast. Into the VitaMix, I shoved spinach, frozen peaches and berries, almond milk, and a little stevia. To make it a little more tropical, I threw in a small capful of coconut flavoring. BIG MISTAKE. It didn't make it like a piña colada, it just gave it an awful aftertaste.
Believing I needed more protein to accompany my veggies and fruits, but not able to find any powders, I cooked a couple of egg whites in the microwave. Maybe it was the combination of ice-cold smoothie in contrast with the steaming hot eggs, but my stomach began to churn. Once again, my healthy eating streak was short-lived. By lunch time, I just wanted comfort food. A hot bowl of beef stew, and a side of cornbread with honey butter fit the bill nicely. Perfect.
The time I spend in the kitchen is generally not cooking, but baking. That can get a girl who likes to eat into big trouble. Things that are baked: bread, sweet rolls, cookies, brownies. Things that are cooked: soups, stir-fry, meats, vegetables. I really should try to develop more cooking skills.
This New Year's Day came and went. No resolutions this year for me. I have set an intention for the year, and have summed it up with one word, "PEACE." I know that if I am seeking peace, there are certain things I will do to take care of myself, like walk, eat healthy food, meditate, and write. I know there are certain things I will avoid, like slothfulness, gluttony, and being busy for the sake of being busy.
I resisted the urge to browse the DIET and EXERCISE table of books at the entrance of Barnes and Noble. The table demands to be seen; I would've run into it if I'd been distracted at all. The only book that spoke to me from the display was Deepak Chopra's book, What Are You Hungry For?
Lately, I've been noticing his quotes on the internet, specifically on Facebook, about eating. I have a sneaking suspicion he is on to something. If I were more mindful, I wouldn't fall into my old eating patterns as easily. This is the quote I saw this week, and I pinned it immediately to my Goal Board on Pinterest.
That a doctor is willing to recognize how pleasurable food can be endears him to me. He has my attention. I may be heading back to Barnes and Noble to secure my own copy of What Are You Hungry For? I have a sneaking suspicion the answer to the title's question isn't going to be food. Oy vey. Again, I believe if I am coming from a place of peace within myself, I will seek food less as a source of comfort. I can only hope...