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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bad Mix: New Foods + Eating, But Old Ways of Shopping

I've lived alone most of my life, yet always kept large quantities of food in the house.
I was afraid (nearly terrified) of running out of food, not having enough. I'd feel unsettled, ill-at-ease, if I didn't see food nearly spilling out of my fridge whenever I looked inside. Many times a day I'd open the door, stand there, and just look at the food. It would make me feel safer somehow, better. (I never identified the amount of food required to make the discomfort leave; the fear was such that I never probed.)
 Carb Queen

In the old days (3 months ago), I'd have to have lots of carbohydrates around: say, 2 lbs of steel cut oats, at least a pound of brown rice, rice noodles, a loaf or two of bread. And I'd need fat-laden, creamy stuff: a couple of packages of frozen mac & cheese from Trader Joe's, at least one package of cheese, and sometimes ice cream or chocolate mousse. I also required other sweets: I always had a pound of brown sugar, a couple of bars of dark chocolate, sometimes cookies in my home. Oh, and at least 3-5 frozen TV dinners.
Me and Scarlett O'Hara
My last partner complained that our freezer didn't work well because I'd overstuffed it with food. Sometimes she'd tease me. "Oh look," she'd say, feigning alarm, "we've only got 4 quarts of soy milk! What are we gonna do?!? What are we gonna do?!?" I'd chuckle, but with little enthusiasm. I knew she didn't know.
What she didn't know, of course, was hunger, the exhausting, regular, relentless hunger I knew growing up. She'd neverhad to choose between stealing food or going hungry, been fed margarine sandwiches for days on end, or nothing at all. I never revealed this to anyone; I was so ashamed of how poor we were.

My older sister and I talked about food all the time: what we'd eat if we could eat anything we wanted; how and where we'd shop, what we'd eat,how we'd cook it, the foods we'd always keep at the ready in our adult homes. For her: overflowing plates of crisply-fried shrimp, and lots of bacon. For me: just big piles of rice, gravy, and meat, followed by cake and ice cream.
I didn't know at the time, but I was like Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett O'Hara, shaking her bony white fist at the sky while declaring: "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again." My fist was dark brown and bony, and I would have been chattel in her sanitized Confederacy, but we were sisters in desperation, in hunger.
 Now Different, Now Challenging
And now I'm in the world with a new way of living and eating.  I consume mostly vegetables and protein (these days beef, nuts, and eggs), blueberries and mulberries. And am trying to shop without fear.
I've made progress: I've been able to reduce the amount of food I buy, and spend a lot less time seeking comfort from looking at the contents of my fridge and cabinet. However, my missteps are expensive. I'm still buying too much food (especially veggies), and even my Evert-Fresh Green Bags can't keep them fresh forever.
Living without the familiar bulging fridge is still a fear trigger for me. Tonight I was cleaning up a spill in the fridge, and noticed I didn't have much food in it.( I have more than enough, but nowhere near the previous volume).
I had a momentary squeeze of anxiety. "Where's my food," I thought. "Where's all my food?"

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