I can recall perfecting the seasoning on my mom’s fried chicken. I remember hating homemade burgers and meatloaf until I lived with my grandmother and she changed my food pallet. I remember stumbling upon my first recipe creation for red pasta sauce right after the college food struggle. I remember staying up all night to make my grandmother’s sweet potato pie recipe for a thanksgiving being hosted at my house. I remember going overboard as a kid and stuffing myself on my first ever pita breakfast pocket...just embarrassing. I’m a foodie to the core. I remember food. It helps me remember things, people and places.
Food is emotional for me, in good ways. I recall food bringing laughter and entertainment to what would have sometimes been boring summer stays at my grandparents’ house. My grandparents had a garden in the backyard of their city home. They were what we call today, "Urban Farmers". My grandmother would take the harvest and serve up delicious meals and competition. One process she was popular for was pickling peppers. She’d put colorful varieties of them in large jars and sit them in the window. Somewhere in time, a jalapeño eating contest started amongst the men of my family. Who could eat the full jalapeño, seeds and all, without water? I don’t recall anyone achieving this feat, but it was fun and funny to watch. This spectacle was better than TV. These musings brought so many visitors to my grandparents’ home. I just never knew who would show up, but it was best when there was a crowd because grandma would keep cooking. She loved it.
This was a private world for me. As a kid, it was hard to express this admiration to the outside world. No one really cared where I grew up. Value was placed on other things. I haven’t always felt liberated by food nor with food, so the best part about food for me today is the liberation I feel. At many of my past office jobs, people would look on in judgement for going back and forth to the break room for snacks. Everyone had an opinion about having pasta for lunch. Changing careers and becoming a cook and baker wouldn’t allow me to avoid food even if I wanted to, and I don’t!
Food and I have a long-standing love-hate relationship tho. I guess codependency will do that to you. Can you believe that when I was a teenager I was literally afraid to eat in public if I sat near a window?! Like...could. not. do. it. I was so self-conscious of what people thought about what I looked like that I’d lose my appetite. People always stare through the windows at restaurants...I think it really freaked me out. As an adult, I understand that it was a self-image issue that I was struggling with. As a kid I was usually larger than the other kids in my class and more advance in my body shape than the other girls, so I was often a target for jokes and unwanted attention. I was always very aware of myself around other people. I did not feel free in who I was nor my interests.
The body positive movement of today is something I delight in. Its liberating beliefs are so necessary. Those 1990 thoughts, “she know she doesn’t need to eat that” are now slashed by the Instagram post of the pretty chubby girl with a fat and delicious donut. Those thoughts don’t stand a chance against this image. I also appreciate the shift in the conversations around healthy not having a singular look, like being skinny. I know I will have more to share on this topic.
Today, I really don’t dwell on what other people think anymore. Now, as a self-proclaimed "foodie", people care more about my opinion on food than anything. That’s a win for me. I’m discovering that there are many things to remember, forget, and share with food at the center of the table.