She has no idea.
“Sharon, what’s the best place for a burger on the Westside?”
“Can I have the recipe for those little pecan tarts?”
“Will you teach a bread class for the fundraiser?*"
"I have to take clients to dinner in Studio City. Where should we go?"
"Will you bring your pie to book group?"
“Have you thought about opening a restaurant?”
I’m that person. The food friend.
It is a mantle that I wear proudly in the world.
I’m a regular at a great sushi bar. If you ask me about the new place in Los Feliz, I’ll tell you whether the review in The Weekly was on point or not. I go out of my way for the fried egg sandwich at Huckleberry and the cheese pastries at Porto’s. I spend hours cross-referencing Chowhound and Yelp before booking dinner reservations in a new town. The language of menus is meaningful to me.
I subscribe to the magazines, and dog-ear the pages. I troll favorite blogs, pinning like mad. My cookbook collection has spilled out of the kitchen and into the den, with more being dropped at my doorstep each week. At times, I’ve used every single one of the mixing bowls stacked in my cupboard at once. I own a cherry pitter for a reason.
Food fills my conversations. We are eating one meal, dissecting the last, and planning the next. The combination of remembered enjoyment and anticipated pleasure somehow makes each bite in between that much more remarkable, particularly when the experience is shared.
“They ate well.”
My husband declared this would be set in stone on our graves one night. “That’s how we’ll be remembered,” he stated with rueful satisfaction. We’d just finished a tremendous steak dinner and most of an expensive bottle of wine. I lifted my own glass, echoed the idea back to him and meant it. “Yes. They ate well! “ I toasted back.
“To eating well!”
But of course, it's not that simple. There is a flip side to all this warm and fuzzy feel-good foodiness.
I graze the pantry at night, shoveling handfuls of kettle corn into my mouth almost without thinking. I reach past the fruit for the brick of cheese to slice hurriedly into wedges on my way out the door. The basket of warm rolls on the table is decimated before the waiter brings our salads. I have seconds on pizza, slather butter on toast, dip into the jar of pretzels on the counter several times in the course of an hour. I choose fries and not salad on the side. I shop hungry on purpose.
I have stashes of food in the car. Hell, I have stashes of food all over my body. On my hips. In my belly. Under my arms. In a butt that barely fits into the seat of an airplane now. An airplane, by the way, that I will board with a full picnic including dessert and a snack to be consumed with a tinge of guilt from my tray table while my fellow fliers look on enviously.
I am this person, too. The fat, undisciplined friend.
I do not blog about this. Or talk about it. Or toast to it with my husband over a bottle of wine. I live with it, privately.
A trained therapist, if I had one, would help me trace the roots of my pathological fear of starving back to my childhood. To memories that tie food to pure and vivid joy that I am trying desperately to relive. We’d discuss my mother, the source of this starvation phobia, who bred her own fear into me by example. My mother, who proceeded to starve herself to death in front of my eyes.
I quietly let myself off the hook. I cannot, after all that, be blamed for the doughnuts and the Doritos. I’m fucked up about food from way back.
From time to time, I exert myself to change. To slow down, eat less, skip dairy. I go to the gym, come out surprisingly refreshed and vow to go back. Intellectually, in the same way I know the proportions of a good vinaigrette, I know the formula for taking off the pounds that have been piling up:
- Write down what you eat.
- Work out with weights one day, and run wind sprints the next.
- Don’t have dinner after 7 pm.
- Drink eight glasses of water a day.
- Chew each bite 20 times.
- Leave food on the plate.
- Live on kale and quinoa and squash and carrots, preferably all together in a cold-pressed bottle of juice.
- Give up cocktails.
- Take up raw nuts.
I make a deal with myself to try these things, and it lasts a week. Sometimes a month. Sometimes not even the day. I am an unreliable counter-party, growing larger and more unstable all the time. It’s almost as though I am punishing myself with food privately for the pleasure eating brings me in the open aspects of my life. When I look in the mirror, I am close to despair.
I’m slowly losing this battle because I’ve been struggling alone. No more. As of now, I’m putting the whole sloppy, complicated, emotional mess of my relationship with eating out there. The feelings of discovery and accomplishment and validation that I soak up by pursuing this passion have to be tempered by accountability and moderation and measurable milestones in taking care of myself. I will say the words out loud* to make them real and true, and make sure someone hears me say them:
My life will be better if I am healthy.
Food is a big part of what makes life good, but my life is full of other joys, too.
I owe it to myself to finally do this right.
I’m taking the first step by going public.
Come with me**.
* Or do the blogging equivalent and posting them online.
** Follow the 50x50 Project here, or via the tab at the top of the blog. Don't worry, I'll still be eating well. Just cutting back on the midnight kettle corn.