Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Food, Relationships

I bake. A lot. This means that I inundate my roommates, friends, family, and co-workers with carb-heavy goods on a regular basis. Most are delighted, but several people have very valid misgivings, or wish that so much bounty was a little less available to them.

Like many Americans, I have a complicated relationship with food. Not, however, with the eating of it, unless you count the last lingering ghosts of my childhood pickiness. I love to eat, and so far have managed to stay at a reasonable weight and health level without undue exercise and with the consumption of millions of carbs. I attribute this partly to genes, partly to the NYC walking lifestyle, and partly to the de facto vegetarianism of having Carrie, Ramona, and Jill for roommates in direct succession. I also recognize that I’ve been lucky—my family and my acting teachers refrained from trying to screw me up! Now I’m incorporating more meat into myself, and that may change how I feel and look and fit into my pants. All in all, though, food and eating are good to me, they're an amusement and a comfort, a joyful part of my life. (As Catherine says: 'I think you have a delightful love relationship with baked goods. You push each other to grow'.)

However, the majority of my complicated relationship with food comes from negotiating other people's complicated relationships with food. I have many friends who struggle with their weight, with cravings, with implanted complexes or insatiable desires. One brave and hilarious soul is merrily blogging about her weight-loss adventures, and spontaneously volunteered to link to this blog despite its food focus. My friends are big and small, actors and non-actors, generally hung up about their looks or not, and the food issues cross those lines in surprising ways, and don't always crop up where I would expect.

At their worst, food issues (mine and those of others) drive me to fury and frustration. One of the great miseries of my study abroad time in Buenos Aires was sharing an apartment with people who constantly betrayed a truly toxic relationship with eating. When I worked at the City Bakery, women would come in and giggle at each other, and say things to me like 'Oooh, I'm going to be bad, and have a cookie/brownie/croissant.' I couldn't help saying to them, though I said it with a smile, that cookies are good. Standardized testing is bad. Agribusiness is bad. Bombing civilians (or anyone) is bad. Cookies, people, are just fine. They are made with love and should be eaten that way, or not at all.

This is the crux, the real truth at the bottom of my worries about food hang-ups. It's not that I disdain them or refuse to understand, and it's certainly not that I don't support my friends and loved ones who struggle with their variations. It's just that I don’t support the vilification of food that often comes along with these struggles, a vilification that some people even seem to take pleasure in, though not anyone I’m close to. I think, and this opinion is hardly new with me, that making food the enemy is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is true on both the individual psychological level, and on the larger socioeconomic one.

When I make something with love, from whole ingredients, it seems to me to be something entirely different from an Entemann’s cake. I want to share it, and not to have it treated as the enemy. That’s my food hang-up. I’m a pusher. I’m a yiddishe mama, a nudge-er, a feeder. I love to make dinner and pack lunch. At my worst I'm seriously self-righteous on this topic. And I’m disappointed if everything I push isn’t greeted with enthusiasm. All the time. So, is this an impasse? Hopefully not. I think food is central to human life, it shouldn’t be fetishized nor ignored. There is no subject that gets people talking weirder or preaching harder faster. I don’t think this is an insoluble problem, just an ongoing adjustment and an attempt to help myself and everyone enjoy and celebrate the place that food holds in our lives and community culture, without anxiety, health problems, rising food prices getting too far in the way. I’m working on it, and I just wanted to say that I respect the way that everyone is working on it.

And they all lived happy, died happy, and never drank out of a dry cappy*…

*A cappy is a cup.


Anonymous said...

Very truthfull post. I am trying to stop emotional eating, which means learning to love food. Food made with love. Because it is all the 'being bad' crap that creates drama and baggage where only love should exist. Looking forward to trying a recipe soon!

Carrie said...

I'm a what?

Judith Motzkin Studio said...

You primed the pump of my bread baking, which was on hiatus. So here is a picture of a small corn rye with caraway made in the no-knead way.

1 c rye flour
2 c white flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
handful of seeds
handful of corn meal
1 1/2 c water

Love you kr,