Thursday, January 08, 2009

Food Attitude

I've been doing some thinking about my relationship to food, particularly in reference to this "let's eat dinner together" initiative that Ed and I have been working on. One of my reasons for trying this is that I did not come into adulthood with the basic skill of going home and eating dinner that someone makes.

It's not that I can't make food, nor that I am a picky eater. I was a pretty easy kid in terms of eating and I like even more things as an adult, including most vegetables. (Even the ones I don't particularly like, like carrots or squashes, I will eat.) I am not one of those people who will only eat hamburgers or whatever.

But I do have an aversion to feeling out of control about what I'm eating, to eating at a table, and to eating food at home. I visited my aunt and cousins for Christmas, and we ate many communal meals at my aunt's table. The meals were homemade, varied, and generally very good, but after a few days I found it difficult and started to feel whiny, with a feeling of a lack of indulgence and control in my eating. And I got tired of the rhythm of having these meals at a table.

My childhood was somewhat strange in terms of food. When I was young, my mom cooked for us (of course), but around middle school, she became a vegetarian and started on an arduous diet and I think after that we mostly ate separately - I would make meals and freeze them for myself, or eat frozen dinners or prepared foods like soups. After age 10 or so, I have almost no memories of sitting down at a table at home to eat together.

Our household also had no snacks - no chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, candy, or things like that in the pantry. There was food in the house, but generally it was healthy food available in limited (though adequate) quantities. We usually only had the specific foods that we normally ate. I didn't snack very much in the ordinary course of events, though I could have eaten fruit or cereal or something like that.

Relatively frequently, my mom would bring home a snack like chips or malted milk balls. We would then consume the entire package of whatever it was. It would have been bought for that purpose - things were almost never partly eaten and then stored for later use. (There were exceptions, like girl scout cookies - you just can't eat a whole box of thin mints in one sitting.) Sometimes we would have restaurant food or fast food for dinner (as people do), but the "normal" food at home was never decadent at all. (Desserts were the same way as snacks - purchased and consumed immediately, never bought in advance and served later in small quantities like I think many people do.)

I think my feeling of deprivation when I contemplate eating food that is already in the house comes from this high contrast, in my childhood, between food that we had at home (healthy, limited quantities, no obvious snacks) and the food that was bought on impulse (restaurant food, fast food, or snacks to be consumed immediately in their entirety). This jibes with the pattern of my eating - I am more likely to be willing to consume even something healthy if I've bought it that very day with the express purpose of preparing it immediately.

When I shop for groceries, I am always torn between wanting to buy things that are healthy, so that I have a healthy diet, but wanting to make sure I will eat the things that I buy later. If I buy things that are not appealing enough, I will simply never, ever eat them (whether they are perishable or not). Even a food that I'd eat if someone served it to me, like a pretty good soup, can be something I will never choose to eat at a particular time. Yet I don't want to buy only total crap and subsist on a diet of nachos and pizza either. (I don't see much point in buying that type of stuff as "groceries" when you can just eat out if you want.) So I try to get a middle ground.

I've cooked twice this week and Ed has cooked once. On both of my nights, I went to the store that night and got ingredients for dinner, and then went home and made it. By doing that I ensured that I had energy towards the foods I was going to make, so that I found it easy to go ahead and carry through with making them. Shopping for meals in advance is a whole different challenge that I will have to tackle.

I want to develop a more wholesome and "normal" relationship to food. It's not so much that I want to become a super-healthy eater as that I want to become a person who can shop in advance for normal, reasonably healthy foods, and then later, even days later, cook and eat that food without feeling like I'm being deprived. I have already become (since college) a person who can keep snacks in the house without compulsively eating them, and I just want to keep moving along this path towards relative normalcy.


rvman said...

you just can't eat a whole box of thin mints in one sitting.

Wanna bet? I've been known to go through more than a full sleeve at a sitting, and if I(a relatively light eater) can manage that, I'd think many people can handle the whole box (2 sleeves).

Tam said...

Hee! I could probably eat a whole sleeve myself, but not much more than that.