For seven years I’ve kept a secret. It’s been at the tip of my tongue, only to be bitten back — kept down — with a gulp. In place of this secret I’d present a pretend-to-tell-all post about something or other, filled with rambled sentences. I’d tell myself you didn’t know what it wasn’t saying.
The secret isn’t nice. It isn’t funny. It’s not the thing to do in food blogs. Writing it, however, is exactly what I want. Keeping the secret made this start to feel a lie.
Sometimes I hate food. Really hate it. Everything about it.
When my work hours are too long and the pay is too little there is no pleasure in shopping for food, deciding on food, or cooking. Especially then, I hate how people judge for what you do or don’t eat. Responsible — healthy and ethical — eating is a luxury.
But food is also a necessity.
As someone who has had to cut back on her only luxury, I try not to criticize what anyone — no matter their situation — eats. Without a car I’ve bought white bread and peanut butter at the 7-11 three blocks from my house rather than the HEB 2 miles away. Without a job I’ve skipped two meals a day only to splurge on a box of Pepperidge Farm cookies. With both I’ve spent $9 a pound on grass fed ground beef, chosen conventionally grown strawberries on sale, and eaten popcorn for dinner.
Years after those without times, I’m still unsure what the best balance of luxury and necessity should have been. Balancing the physical, emotional and financial needs of that situation is without instructions on right and wrong. There are cheaper cookies or none at all, but the prize of getting to eat that cookie made me feel — for a moment — something better about myself.
Sometimes, the box of cookies is an easier decision than figuring out the cheapest, most filling, most nutritional meal possible. Sometimes, that’s the only decision required.
Relatively comfortable these days, I don’t always want to spend so much on groceries. Every box of crackers, jar of olives, container of yogurt, and banana becomes a decision I don’t want to make of cost and ethics. I hate that strawberries and potatoes and carrots and sausage and milk become about morals or calories and diet fads when they should be about breakfast and lunch and dinner. I hate how food — this luxurious necessity — can become a tool of physical and mental self-destruction aimed at ourselves and others.
When life can already feel enough of a challenge to insult in any way what someone eats is likely to be more harmful than helpful to any person involved. Ideally, all vegetables and fruits are organic. All animals frolic and forage in a field. All orchards are pollinated by the neighborhood bees. Ideally, there are no food desserts, no food insecurity, no starvation, no obesity. Ideally, there never was a need for the pesticides and the feed lots and the fertilizers and the fillers and we all get along.
And that’s not even the whole of the issues accompanying what we all eat everyday. Food’s such an essential necessity and indulgent luxury that it is one of the most complex issues facing all societies. And I hate it for being all of that.
Food — the nourishment of my body — should be a primary occupation of my day and yet it is shoved in around my job and things to do on the weekends. To be honest, I may have never had a healthy relationship with food — being too picky, eating too little, or binging on sugar. I’ve had my moments of struggling with lies the brain is always ready to tell. But who can say differently? Sometimes, that’s the absolute worst part.
The hate builds until I’m annoyed by everything and anyone to do with food. I inwardly seethe at food fads, trendy restaurants, and fashionable ingredients that appear in every written word. And the bloggers. All of them, too.
I try to laugh them off. Laugh myself off and remind me of who I want to be. What I want to eat and why I want to eat. I want smiles and laughing, sighs and round bellies, licks and bites and slurps. I want to eat really reds, juicy blues and crisp greens with rich sauces and tangy spices and sweet bites. I want cake on Tuesdays, roast chicken for windy days, and oatmeal with apples just because.
But I make a trip to the grocery store. Without wanting to I compare prices in every aisle. I nag myself about vegetables and food waste. I chide myself about pantry space and the week’s time schedule. I debate the morals of every food source. The difference between necessity and luxury becomes increasingly unclear.