Saturday, January 9, 2010

Food Isn't Just Food

Food isn't just food to me. It should be but it isn't. Food issues start when you associate something beyond nutrition to what you're eating. So many people try to sell me on the value of being a vegetarian and they're never going to win that argument with me.

They're arguing with logic and reason and health. That won't work against the emotional need my meat and junk food fulfill for me.

And no, I don't have anything against being a vegetarian. Several of my good friends are Veggie or Vegan. It's just not for me.

Part of it is that I really like meat. It's my favorite part of any meal.

Second, is that meat was a huge part of my childhood. And yes, even I have a few fond memories of that time period. Meat designated your place in the hierarchy of my family.

My Dad got first pick of the carnal treasure. The biggest piece, the best piece, my Dad got the option of seconds. He was on the only one that could eat two pieces of meat without my Mother having a mini-seizure.

Next, were any of the other adult males in the house. Sometimes the Old Man (my father) would bring work hands up to the house for lunch. All the kids hated to see a trail of work hands heading toward the house, that meant less for us.

All the guest females were served next.

Then all the rest of the women and children.

As a kid, by the time I got to eat almost everything was cold and only the less perfect pieces of meat were left. The charcoal burger, the darker pork-chop, a goose neck. On some days, there wasn't any beef, pork, or chicken left when it was my turn to eat. Instead, I got soup beans (pinto beans) cooked in pork fat.

I like soup beans but part of me, that child part of me, still thinks that getting the good cut of meat means I'm valued, that I'm important. That I'm not waiting to be last anymore. Meat makes me feel like I'm successful.

And it tastes really, really good. Better than anything else on the table. I'd rather have a meat than dessert.

Yes, I know, I know that messed up in the head. I didn't say I was

Besides, I grew up in a meat culture. Everything had a meat or animal by product contained in it. The beans, both soup and green beans, had meat products in included. Fried potatoes were cooked in bacon fat. Biscuits baked in bacon the way, this makes the biscuits crunchy on the outside and super soft and warm inside. Those things were heaven...I haven't had one in about five years. I still dream about them.

I can honestly say that it is impossible to be a vegetarian and eat at my mother's house.

But if meat is acceptance to me, potato chips are comfort. Whenever I'm stressed or upset, I want potato chips, usually Grippos. My mother could be...difficult on her best days and a nightmare on her worst.

The thing with my mother is that she hated for you fight back. If you fought her, she'd escalate. So I learned early to go limp and still, just like they tell you when a bear attacks. You curl up and hope you don't get clawed to badly.

But swallowing your anger, your words, your needs will make you crazy inside. When my mother made me crazy, I ate potato chips. Handfuls, bagfuls...I needed them. If my mouth was full I could cuss or scream or tell the truth because to do those things would paint a big red bull's eye on my forehead.

And as unhappy as I was, I wasn't sure I wanted to die. So I stuffed all my feelings down my throat in salty little potato chips.

Mt. Dew is my other addiction. Although I've switched to Diet, I still love that stuff. When you're afraid to sleep, it'll keep you up. When you've cried for hours, curled in a ball in the dark, it's wonderfully sweet to your sore throat.

So when people try to sell me on the health benefits of water, steamed veggies, and rice by telling me it's good for me, they've already lost the argument. Food for me isn't just food. It's meaning.

And yeah, I know, I know...I'm going to spend a long time in therapy one day.

Until then, happy eating.



  1. Ah, comfort food. Yeah, I eat potato chips a lot too. It shows on my hips.

    I don't eat a lot of meat but my husband doesn't eat many veggies so we often share plates.


  2. Aw, your Mother sounds about as cut out for the job of motherhood as mine was ;)

    Tirzah, I'm not trying to sell you on being Veggie. It's just ME seeing certain things for ME. Keep on eating meat if you like.

    But I will tell you about the burger musuem. :) A man has a collection of burgers that go back to 1990 I think. Exactly the same as the day he bought them. They call them bionic burgers - something to do with all the additives they put in them. :)

  3. Tirz, lol. I like my meat also. Sometimes though, I've had too much of it and I have to switch to my veggies. It doesn't have too much meaning to me other than the fact that I'm f'ing lucky to even have meat on my plate than a grain of rice in other countries. So, go on girl eat your meat. I do. :)

  4. It is amazing how deeply ingrained our mealtime habits are. I completely relate with the "hierarchy" of the dinner table. I always despised my step-father for taking the biggest portions. My mom used to cook the same way, meat in everything (She's from Kentucky, so everything meat, gravy, and fried)
    I've nade similiar comments to people about preferring a good steak to desert. It seems the most fulfilling.

  5. You bring up some very valid points about the complicated relationship humans have with their food. There are religions and cultures that have elaborate rules and ceremonies involving the butchering, preparation, and serving of food. There are ceremonies with aboriginal tribes involving the hunting and gathering of food. It goes back a long way, and it continues still just manifesting in different ways.
    Interesting post, something to ponder.


    Commented on this post today.


  7. Nice to meet you Tirzahl and many thanks for becoming a follower of Pen And Paper.
    An interesting post on our relationship with food. A vegetarian myself, my one vice is chocolate, oh and .......... I could go on but won't.

  8. We learn to eat or not to eat as a kid. And I find our 'trigger' food are usually those with some sort of deeper emotional meaning.

    Or maybe I just like junk.



  9. (This is so wrong and I apologize) - but I once saw a shirt that said - "Animals were made to eaten otherwise God would not have made them out of meat!"
    Chow for now! (pardon the pun)