Food is love. I’ve tried to fight it, but it’s endlessly, hopelessly true for me.
This weekend, my beloved in-laws came for a visit. What did I plan? Hikes and family bowling tournaments? An afternoon of firearms fun on the family range? A Monopoly marathon? No. I planned meals. Many of them. I kept the pictured list beside my stove for quick reference. No one of the meals happened exactly as I planned, but I purchased and stocked each and every ingredient, and had my favorite cookbooks handy, just in case.
How many times have I read–in fitness magazines, books, and websites–that one should eat to live, and not live to eat? Clearly, when pressed, I live to eat and offer the same madness to anyone who comes within tasting-spoon distance.
Ask a child, when I went on long car trips with my family (two hours to Cincinnati was a huge distance for me), I always had my supplies ready well in advance. Candy was my traveling choice, of course. I was particularly fond of Tootsie Pops, for their longevity. Even now, my kids know that the approaching zombie apocalypse has nothing on me. If we must flee on a second’s notice, I’m sure to have plenty of ham sandwiches, Luna Bars, and fresh fruit in my massive purse. If necessary, we can use the food to barter for our lives. Or, we can just eat it while everyone else starves. (Though I guess I’ve put us at risk, now that my secret is out.)
Nothing makes me happier than a cabinet or refrigerator filled to overflowing with food. I tend to distrust people who only have diet soda, wilted lettuce, and apples in their fridge. Empty shelves are an invitation to danger: Power outages! Ice storms! Bad news! I feel safe when there’s lots of food around. Maybe one of my past lives spanned the Great Depression. Maybe I was an anorexic. Maybe it comes from one of my earliest memories: shelf upon shelf of canned goods lining my grandfather’s basement walls. Or maybe it’s because I always felt such stress about the food at our family dinner table.
It wasn’t that my mother was stingy with food. It was that she prepared enough. Never too much. Just enough, so it wouldn’t go to waste. That’s sensible, of course. With three energetic, picky daughters, it must have been a huge accomplishment for her just to get a meal on the table. My mom’s a good cook. But I always wanted more. And more. Thank goodness there wasn’t more, or I would’ve ended up significantly overweight.
Compare: When we lived in Michigan, I somehow ended up in the newspaper with my mom’s chili recipe. Also my favorite Southern Living Mocha/Chocolate cake. When the reporter asked me how many people the chili served, I said, “Oh, probably four.” I didn’t know from measuring servings. I never measured out pasta. When I cooked spaghetti, I would cook up almost the entire pound bag, just for the two of us and our four year-old. We never ate even half of it. It would mostly get thrown away. (I think about that now, and blush with embarrassment.) I was mortified when the article came out and the reporter said she was confused because, given the chili recipe’s ingredients, it should feed six to eight people. My understanding of servings was obviously way out of whack. Really, I do cringe.
It was a spring spent on Weight Watchers that taught everyone in our family portion control. Now, I weigh pasta before I cook it to get it right.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a salad, and bread, and dessert. And a different kind of dessert if you don’t like the one I planned.
I want the people around me to know I love them. I want them to know that life is extra-sweet. I want them to know that, when I feed them, they are close to my heart. I want their pie crusts to be flaky, and their fish perfectly poached, and their asparagus peeled and just a wee bit crunchy. And then I want them to have a big, fat slice of chocolate cake. I know that true love would instead feed them just enough, and then take them for a long, picturesque walk to aid their digestion and burn calories.
Fortunately, my in-laws sensibly took themselves on walks while I was retting up meals. I like to take walks. I do! It’s just that taking walks doesn’t get those pecans chopped or cookies baked.
Yes, I am incorrigible.