Food For Thought
February 18, 2009, 4:04 PM
Filed under: Adolescence, Food and Beverages, Indulgence

I was lying in bed earlier this week reading, as I usually do before I lay my head to rest, when I realized something.  I took my hand out of the popcorn that I had been scarfing down while perusing David Sedaris’ new book and thought to earlier times this week when I had readied myself for bed.  Today it was popcorn I had been munching on, but the night before it was cheese.  A block of cheese, cheddar actually, sharp and creamy.  The night before that it was peanut butter and jelly.  I even recall laying down with a small tin of lasagna, all of which I had devoured before I got through one chapter.

Eating is fun for most, and with me it’s no different.  It’s a hobby almost.  I enjoy trying new things.  New tastes,
new flavors, new textures.  However lame this may sound, it’s kind of thrilling.  Show me a menu with dishes
I can’t pronounce, and I’ll show you one massive credit card charge.

I had always been this way, ever since I can remember.  But there was a point where it was difficult to control, almost impossible.  Whenever I would play video games, I would eat.  Before or after practicing clarinet, eat. T.V.?  You bet there were chips in my lap.  Movie?  Not without the Jiffy Pop.  Outings, sporting events, family gatherings…you could always find me, as long as you followed the smell of freshly baked cookies.

It had gotten so bad that my parents actually restricted what I was allowed to eat and when.  This of course, never stopped me, as I was a crafty child, but not a very subtle one, unfortunately.  Yes, I could certainly hunt and retrieve my prey and return to my lair in the basement, but the evidence I left behind was mounting.  It’s hard to lie
when an entire unopened box of Fruit Roll Ups are suddenly gone and your mom finds six wrappers in your favorite pair of blue jeans on laundry day.  Everyone knows how they got there.

One night, after these food restrictions had been made, my mom had, per usual, passed out during a marathon of Crocodile Hunter on Animal Planet.  I could always count on Sundays for pillaging.  My mother would be conked out by seven and my father upstairs on the computer or reading shortly after.  It was always then that I made my move.  I specifically remember seeing a new pack of  Ho-Ho’s in the cabinet when my mom asked me to grab the chili pepper while making dinner.  I had to be smart about this though: since the package was unopened, I had to immediately make my lunch after and slip on in so that everyone in the house would assume that they were used for lunches, which was indeed their purpose.

I crept into the kitchen, sensing only argument from my Collie-Lab mix, Sheba.  Not so much argument as genuine wonder.  And with a  beautifully stupid look in her eye, she followed me with her head cocked to the other half of the kitchen, hoping that if she was my partner in crime, she would somehow get a cut of the spoils.  But because she was a dog, she had no clue how I operated.  With me, it’s every man, woman, and canine for themselves.

I silently climbed the first step of the stairs to see if I could clicking from the computer room.  After a few seconds, I had decided that my father was probably in his room with the fan on, and couldn’t hear the debauchery taking place below him.  The worst thing about our snack cabinet was that it squeaked.  Not creaked or even slammed, but squeaked.  And this was no gentle rubber ducky squeak.  It was the squeak from Hell; The noise of a thousand chipmunks begin hung by their necks.  Open the cabinet in the middle of the night, and there was on off chance
that you’d wake the neighbors.  This was always my biggest problem.  When my family was preoccupied with other things, there would be bustling about the house, and the noise would be swallowed by the drone of casual everyday life.  But on a Sunday, it was the emphasis.  A loud, crackling fanfare, alerting the house that there was an intruder preparing to scarf down some snack cakes.

I had one of two options: open the door as fast as I could, or open the door as slow as I could.  Both had their own unique appeal,  but in the end, the same noise would be made.  If it was a fast swing, it was usually amplified, and dogs around the neighborhood would burst into song.  If it was slow, the noise would be drawn out, giving too much time for other ears in the house to figure out what the hell was making the racket.  I opted for slow because it seemed more stealthy and spy-esque.

I peeled back the wood, praying to God that someone had the decency to treat the hinges with WD-40 earlier in the afternoon.   The noise was both strained and somewhat gentle, like a soft fart on a leather couch cushion.  It was just enough to make me pause before I searched the cabinet.  It was also just enough for my father to leave the computer room and come storming down the stairs.

Of course, the spanking I received for being a deviant wasn’t enough humiliation for me.  Sheba, even though she had essentially been an accessory to the crime, got to watch jauntily, as if it were a new game she had never played.  I could tell what her inner monologue was saying though: “See, if you would have promised me a snack cake, we could have gone through this together.”  I suppose I’m just a lone wolf when it comes to boxed desserts.

By my senior year in high school, I had lost a considerable amount of weight.  I was much taller, yes, but the most noticeable thing to me was my clavicles.  They were strong, protruding, almost desperate to escape my body, believing there was something better for them out there in the real world, outside all of the tissue and blood.  They were proud, poised, and slightly gallant.  Even with the body image issues I was trying so hard to work on, I could take one look at my clavicles and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

After my break up with Dave, I began a downward slump in food consumption.  That is, when you live in an attic in Riverwest, it’s safe to say you probably can’t afford Ahi tuna every night.  My grocery cart consisted purely of bread, cans of tuna, and Ramen noodles.  I would usually only eat once a day, after work, mostly to conserve the food, and spend the rest of my night reading, wishing that I had a tin of lasagna to keep me company.

Because I literally couldn’t afford food, my weight dropped from a stable one-thirty-five to a Mary-Kate one-twenty.  My ribs resembles marimba blocks and my pants would sigh and sag if I walked anywhere.  I felt healthy, of course, but I could tell that I wasn’t.  There was, fortunately, a cure, but I wouldn’t discover it until I moved into 1811.

For whatever reason, I was completely against marijuana in high school.  I had only been offered once, my freshman year, and I immediately turned it down.  I was positive that even one puff would make me sink into a depressive haze.  I would become lazy overnight, eating mayo on my Doritos and growing dreads.  To me, weed turned decent, civilized people into zombies that laughed at window shutters and slept until four in the afternoon.

When I moved into 1811, I felt no different.  When my current roommate Brittney asked me if I smoked weed, I kindly told her no, and that was the end of it.  But all it took was one bad day for me to change my mind.  I came home from work, angry and agitated, most likely from something Marie or Christine said.  Brittney, Jessie, Alex, and Ju Muthafuckin’ Bizzle were all smoking out of a bong in the living room when I came home.  When I told Brittney about my day, a strange grin covered her face: “Well, you could just smoke, it will definitely make you feel better.”

For whatever reason, I didn’t have to think twice.  Once all of the finer points of using a bong were explained to me, I lit it and took a rip.  It left a heavy, sinking feeling in my lungs and tasted like burnt graham crackers.  I didn’t feel very different, even as I began to discuss the way I liked to get fucked to Alex and as I devoured hot wing after hot wing.  Later in the evening, I raided my panty for anything I could possibly find, just wanting to taste something new and different in my mouth.  I ate and ate until I couldn’t eat anymore.  I went to bed that night and got the best sleep of my entire life.

Weed made a considerable dent in my bank account during the months to come.  I never bought it; I had no need to, since Jessie and Brittney were always well-stocked.  What actually made the dent was the munchies I got after smoking.  I checked my Pizza Shuttle account at the end February and learned that, even though I had no job and couldn’t afford rent, I had somehow managed to spend almost one hundred and fifty dollars in pizza, calzones, salads, and those little cheese curd things they serve with honey.  And that was just Pizza Shuttle.  There was still McDonalds, Chopstix, Jimmy John’s, Domino’s, and Zayna’s to consider.  Marijuana hadn’t turned me into a zombie, but it sure came close to turning me into a fat ass.

When I got my job at ASQ, I was making double then what I was at the Rep, so not only was take-out much more accessible, I felt less guilty ordering it.  By September, I stopped grocery shopping all together, living mostly off of the vending machine at work, the food court in the mall, and Pizza Shuttle for dinner.  Finally I could afford food, but I was still eating like it was going out of style, as if my five dollar and thirty two cent sub was the last five dollar and thirty two cent sub in the world, or at least the tri-city area.

Months later, here I am, eating just to fill time.  People tell me not to worry: “Have you seen yourself lately?  If anything, you need to eat a sandwich!”  I’m constantly asked by friends if I’ve begun any “unhealthy lifestyle choices.”  I shrug to this, since I feel like I’m starting a new one everyday, but if they mean laxatives or running eight miles a day, I have no interest in doing either.  Genetically, my family is prone to weight issues, and while all of the children in my family are stick thin, I can’t imagine this is going to last forever.

I decided to sit down and figure out why I associate sleep with eating, or why I associate reading with eating, or whatever it is.  What I found was strange and actually kind of unnerving.  Every night so far this week, I have eaten nothing before I went to sleep.  In fact, I’ve barely eaten anything at all.  It might have something to do with stress, but I, and doctors around the world, were probably under the impression that when you were stressed, you tended to eat more.  I, however, found out that I ate when I was content, happy, and reassured about things.  Once again, I get to be the exception to the rule.  Too bad I’m getting tired of it.

I think back to a simpler time when food was mostly used for enjoyment.  I ate Ring Pops because they were fun.  Mashed potatoes satisfied me.  And even Ramen noodles seemed like an adventure.  Now, food has become something I have to worry about.  I have to worry about having it, preserving it, not eating too much of it, not eating enough of it, eating the right kinds, realizing the wrong kinds…with all of this stress, I feel like I want to throw up my hands and start munching on grass.

I still love food.  Food is, and will probably always be, my one and only true love.  As they say, “There is no love that is more pure than the love of food.”  But food is a fickle lover.  The secret?  Coddle it before you go to bed, and chances are you’ll be able to make it through the night.


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