Thursday, October 22, 2009

food as metaphor

Okay, here's a question I'm posing to each of you to spill or share, if you're willing:

What does food mean to you?

(Lemme explain.)

I think of food as a metaphor. Food is never just food to most of's comfort, love, nourishment, guilt, an unexpected treat, a gift, a is very emotional. And when someone else makes us food, it's doubly emotional.

I'll back up a bit by explaining what spurred this particular post. That Boy I Adore moved here a week and a half ago, on Columbus Day, and needed (understandably) a few days to get his place in order, and then I took off for the weekend on a camping and canoeing trip where I proceeded to panic and flail a lot and get lots of mosquito bites, because that's how I roll.

So I get back into town on Sunday afternoon and my guy offered to make me dinner that evening, at his place, as his pots and pans finally came in the mail and he bought groceries.

We eat a delicious dinner, he is careful not to put any red sauce on my stuffed pasta shells (I don't like red sauce), and the food is amazing. Also, he packs up the leftovers for me to take for lunch on Monday to work. Did I mention I adore this guy?

Monday night, I stop by his place for about twenty minutes just to say hi after work. Again, he has cooked dinner for me, which, when I have to leave, he packs up for me to eat later. I feel like a jerk for showing up for food and then running out the door.

Tuesday night, I have an acting class, but I show up, again for about half an hour after work, and lo and behold, he has made a delicious dinner again. And packed up leftovers for me to take to lunch on Wednesday.

Wednesday night, same thing. Amazing dinner, incredible dessert (he made chocolate covered strawberries to surprise me, even though I was the one who was supposed to make them), and then packed up the leftovers for me to take to lunch.

As we were eating last night, watching the Phillies beat the Dodgers on TV, something struck me. I put down my fork and looked at him. He looked over at me, concerned. Was there something wrong with the food?

No, I said. But it had just occurred to me that it had been over fourteen years since someone had cooked me dinner four times in a row. And I felt so incredibly loved by this.

You see, when my mom finally divorced my dad when I was a kid, she became a single full-time working mom, receiving no child support from my father. So we moved into a much smaller house, and it was just me and her, and we took care of each other, but because she worked all the time, I had to step up. I did all the grocery shopping, cooked all the meals, cleaned the house, made sure the bills were paid on time... I had to become an adult, really quickly. And I knew that if I was hungry, there wasn't going to be anyone there to feed me or cook for me. I had to learn how to do it myself.

Whenever my mom or someone else did cook for me when I was a kid, I would feel so incredibly loved and taken care of. It's a feeling I can't describe, really. But it was someone caring about my well-being, when I was raised in a home that didn't do that very often, and I felt special and watched over. Someone making food for me was a real treat, and to this day, it still is. I equate food with love, and when I want to show love or need to feel loved, there is usually food involved.

The worst part is, when I go to those deep, dark places where I don't love myself, I stop feeding myself. Incredibly unhealthy, I know, but we are all just human.

I'll tell you a secret: this past January and February, I was not okay. I was going through a devastating breakup with someone that I cared for very much, who cared for me very much, but we knew we weren't making each other happy. It was harder than just about anything I have ever done, to let this person go, and let him let me go.

I was not eating, at all. In fact, I was starving myself. Not because I thought I needed to lose weight. Not even because I thought I didn't deserve to eat. I wasn't eating because I simply couldn't function.

So I did one of the smartest things I've ever done (note how amazingly humble I am!): I put my friends on baby-sitting duty for me. I asked this girl, and this girl, and this girl, and this guy and his amazing fiancee, to come over each night and either help me make dinner or bring me something to eat because I was not okay.

And they did.

And I got through it all, because I knew I was loved.

So here I sit, eating my left-overs from yet another wonderful meal that was made for me, and I feel ridiculously loved and spoiled. And yes, I've already expressed gratitude to my guy, but I will, again:

Thank you, sweetie. I really, really appreciate it.

k guys, now it's your turn to share :)


Marion said...

Girl, you are so fortunate to have such great friends who will take care of you!! I'm glad you got better!! :-)

I see food more as a necessity at this point in my life. We seldom eat out due to our tight budget, but I've never been much on eating out (except for Chinese now and then). My husband does surprise me with my favorite chocolate ever so often. Today it was a rainy, dreary day so I baked (for the first time in about a year) a huge batch of Oatmeal cookies with raisins, craisins, dried cherries and pecans in them. My recipe made 3 dozen huge cookies so now we'll have cookies for dessert for a few weeks. In the winter I cook comfort food: chili, stews, gumbo and stuff like that. I guess I'm a seasonal cooker. We seldom turn on the oven in summer because it's so hot and we eat lots of fresh veggies from the garden then. Interesting post, Phoenix. I'm so happy you have someone to show you love by cooking for you. Blessings!

drollgirl said...

this post made me cry. you have such a good man taking care of you! and i am so glad that your friends saw you through such a difficult break up. it is good that you recognized that not eating was bad, and found those people to help you.

hang on to this guy. he sounds incredible, and you seem happy. that is such a good thing!

and you owe him a nice meal one of these days! :)

Wine and Words said...

Lucky you have such a great guy, and to starve when you're upset. I eat. So I am upset and fat. What the hell good can that be? Guess I'll need friends to babysit too...and padlock the fridge!

Madeleine said...

What a beautiful story. I can totally relate about food as love. Growing up, whenever I had a particularly bad day, my mom always made me her homemade mac and cheese. So whenever anyone cooks for me, I see it as an expression of love that's deeply felt. We all need people in our lives to care for us the way your guy (he sounds amazing!) does for you. Awesome, awesome post.

Jenn said...

oh this post almost made me cry. you are so lucky to have such good friends to take care of you when you're down and such an amazing boy to show you that you're loved.

for me - food is comfort or home. since my mom passed away - one of my favorite things to do is make her recipes (which is hard because she didn't write a lot of them down). i perfected her homemade chicken noodle soup (whole chicken and all) last winter, i started crying when i tasted it because it was just...her. i don't know that sounds really weird. but there you go!

Dave said...

Food is love! And family and friends and fun and a good excuse to sample fine beers. I was raised by a single father who thought rice and peppers were needed in every I did some young cooking too. :) And hey, cook that dude some food!

Lira said...

All that dinner plus lunch for the next day? Is Boy You Adore Jewish, and does he also think you're too skinny?
love you!

Ida Nielsen said...

Oh, I got so touched by this post! What an incredible guy and fantastic friends you have.
I can relate to not eating when you're feeling incredible sad, in my case I can't even drink anything-which is really bad of course -there's somehow just not room for anything but the sorrow.
Anyway, loved this post so very much!! Thanks for sharing.

Joker_SATX said...

Now this is a good post. I guess for me, Food is an adventure. I never ask "What's for Dinner?" When my wife cooks, I just sit down and eat what's on the plate...when I cook, I just try to get a s creative as I can.

We try to bring excitement constantly to the ho hum dreary walls of Arkham...

Nahl said...

Are you sure the guy you adore isn't an angel in disguise?
ohmyGod this is so sweeeet!
And I love how you connected your being fed to feeling loved. I can never cook for myself. I mean what's the use of doing all the work, and then sitting down to enjoy the indulgence? It's one or nothing. :P Mommy cooks for me (yea, still :P)

Anonymous said...

To me food is a celebration. There is nothing better than sharing a great meal, laughs, and good conversation.

Lori ann said...

This was incredibly lovely, I think you are wise beyond your years.

It's fitting that you'd have someone like this guy care so much for you, he loves your company sweetie. And it no doubt gives him great pleasure to do for you...sigh...♥

Gwen said...

I have to agree with the other comments. You are very lucky to have wonderful friends and such a great man in your life. I know you appreciate them tons!! XOXO

Clarity said...

As I saw the title my intrigued reaction was "Isn't it a bit early in our bff relationship for us to be thinking along the same lines?" You see, I was going to do a food-related post... but on reading this.

I am so touched by what you shared. I can't imagine what it was like having to step up so early or if I could have done that myself. I am glad that you are surrounded by love and compassion right now. As for the boy, marry him already. Peace and love, x

Eeeno's World said...

I eat when I'm bored, and discontent at my dead-end job that I should've left over a year ago. I don't eat at ALL during breakups. Maybe I should invent a reason for a temporary breakup....hello, bikini!! ;-)

Love the boy you adore, love that you're so happy. You deserve it <3

Archana said...

Aww the boy deserves lots of admiration, he really does seem so adorable. :)

Food is something that is so essential to me, and growing up Indian it's such a huge part of our lives. Be it at family get togethers or festivals. Food is love, it's celebration, it's gratitude, it's just so many wonderful things!

I enjoyed this post. :) And I'm glad that you have an amazing circle of friends that helped you get through the rough times! <3

krista said...

i have 40 extra pounds of issues with food. yes, i had a baby. yes, i don't drink or smoke anymore.
but still.
food is winning.

life according to celia... said...

food is definitely love... unless it's donuts, then it's just that nasty friend (you think is a friend) that takes total and complete advantage of you and leaves you wanting more and you can't explain why. ugh.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

I haven't read anyone else's food metaphor post, or, indeed, much of your own, because I don't want to taint my own response. That said, if I repeat what's already been said, chalk it up to the collective subconscious.
To me food, and the act of eating, is one of the most sensual, sensuous, things that we do. There's sex, and there's food, and depending on who you are and how you're wired, for whatever reasons, one is more dominant than the other. Maybe it all goes back to biological imperatives, the food and sex thing, but for whatever reasons, I deeply equate the preparation of good food as a sort of seductive dance.
The opening strains of an overture that hopefully builds to a crushing cressendo...that sort of thing, but then I'm sure that I've ascribed too much to it all ;)

Eeeno's World said...

I figured it out!!!! PUMPKIN things are my comfort food! Pumpkin bread, pancakes, pie, lattes, etc. make me feel happy and loved. Very content. It also means......Christmas is coming!! I realized this yesterday after I felt so warm and fuzzy thinking about my pumpkin pancakes, and I just had to share it with you immediately ;-)

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