Sunday, February 20, 2005

Food, glorious food.

Imagine if you will, Sunday buffet brunch someplace fancy. A group of friends and relations, having partaken freely of both the seafood island and the omelet station, sit down and prepare to devour a ziggurat of food. As the first bite of egg/croissant/ham/fruit salad is ingested, someone wonders aloud where they should have dinner. Does this sound friendly and convivial, if a trifle gluttonous? For me, it’s hell. Hell with napkins shaped like swans. Like many women in Los Angeles, I have a food issue. But my issue is a little odd.

I am neither overweight nor underweight. I work out, but not to excess. Being five pounds overweight still sounds better than vomiting on purpose, so it’s not bulimia. My food issue is that I cannot think about food. Rather, I cannot think about food while eating it, or right before eating it, which makes preparation a challenge. If I do think about it while preparing it, I can serve it, but I no longer have the appetite to eat it. I don’t know what the problem is exactly, I just know that if I think about food long enough, I start feeling as if I have already eaten. If forced to talk about food while eating food, it has the effect of consuming two meals simultaneously. Since I am not suffering from massive organ failure I suspect I take in the same amount of calories as anyone else my weight and height. I snack frequently throughout the day; it’s just rarely a premeditated act. I’ll see almonds and eat them, spy some tabouli and snack on that. Then I’ll eat a slice of pie. Or the pie will come first, followed by a tablespoon of spinach salad that I had gone to some trouble to put back into the fridge, rounded off by soy bacon. There is very little sense of order to my ingestions (I don’t see anyone calling them meals). It’s as if I am a Stone Age hunter/gatherer barely able to imagine her good luck at being given bedding and potable water, grasping whatever might be edible.

Remember the group at brunch? When I am faced with piles of food, and someone starts talking about yet more food, all I see is an endless procession of food-laden platters stretching to eternity, hissing at me “Plenty more where we came from”.

I’ve been like this ever since childhood. I remember avoiding going to a friends’ house because his mother was Greek, and the phrase “Thank you, Mrs. Knight, but I’m not hungry” was interpreted to mean “Just half a leg of lamb and drum of yoghurt, please”. If I had a nickel for every time during my youth that someone used the phrase “Barely enough to keep a bird alive” when eating with me…well, I could pelt some cliché-ridden adults with nickels. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy eating dinner at someone’s house. Since I have not had to think about the food in any way prior to its arriving at the table, I’m thrilled with it. It’s just so hard to convince everyone you know to set up a rotating schedule of feeding you and your family.

And does this affect my mothering? Of course it does, you big silly. I force myself to sit and eat dinner with the kid, even though it goes against my entire metabolism and psychic makeup, so that ten years from now she won’t think that a proper dinner for a grown woman is handful of vitamins and Cosmopolitan. But, in order to be seen eating in front of my daughter, I must not think about it in advance. My final meal of the day basically must leap out from behind a door and mug me. I open the fridge and mumble “White thing, green thing, fruit thing”, while grabbing the elements that make a reasonably balanced vegetarian meal. I then spoon them on to the plate and get them to the table before I can start to really ponder the hidden depths of my meal. My daughter gets things that are heated, I rarely do. If there is a club that represents the polar opposite of the kind of thoughtful dining that the French and Italians do, I’m their Queen.

However, when massive amounts of money rain down on us in some manner to be determined, I think that I would hire a chef. I like to imagine that I would be a wonderful boss. As long as he never spoke one word to me about what he was making for dinner.


Blogger Caroline Davoust said...

I think I may very well suffer a similar affliction; I've started cooking more lately, but every time I do, I offer it to friends and family, and when they ask if I ate any my response is usually a very confused, "Did I WHAT? ... no, I don't want any. ... No, I didn't poison it. Eat the cookies!"

11:35 PM  

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