Tuesday, September 9, 2008

For the Love of Food.

As convoluted my relationship to food might be, I have always had a strong one with it. That didn’t occur to me until I realized that I was breaking out in rashes from all the tomatoes I have been eating a couple of weeks ago. I have never had that happen before, but I also hadn’t dated any Sicilians.
I have always dictated and followed a rigid set of rules when it came to food, even though the ideas had changed through time. However, I was never the kid that would only eat white foods…or sand. In fact, as a child I refused to eat unless it was a bowl of Chinese herbal soup. Strange, but the fact that I looked like a tiny skeleton with a giant head instead of a baby Buddha, as all Asian babies do, made everyone think that my parents were abusing me. But really, I was too busy being paranoid that everything might just kill me.
I remember being in prep and refusing to eat a mint slice because I somehow thought the combination of peppermint and chocolate was poisonous. Of course, I thought that every wrong note I played on the piano at that stage would allow something bad to happen to me and I had to be ‘good’ or ‘right’ all the time. I was completely manic and swallowing books that you would only hear about mid-way through high school by the time I was in grade two. I also remember them weighing me and being only 18kg.
I think the mania caused my head to explode a bit, because before I was even in grade three, I would be too scared to shower, thinking that we all lived in our own heads and realities, but were spatially the same in relation to how we saw our placement in our heads. For example, the shower in my reality may not be the shower in yours; perhaps it is ‘actually’ a supermarket. What would happen if someone managed to break out of their reality and see how physically vulnerable I was, and bring it into my reality and shame me? What if they broke someone else out of their reality into the real reality to point and laugh? I would stand for hours in the bathroom rationalizing this idea until I developed the courage to strip, lather, rinse and then hide under the covers in my room.
At the same time, my arse was permanently purple from the weekly injections I had, to make sure I would get all the nutrients I needed. I cried a lot. Every time I ate as well, I would always end up throwing up, nothing could stay down and I always sounded like water was sloshing around inside me.
Finally, when I was seven, my parents sat me down and force fed me and threatened to pull a tooth out for every grain of rice left in a bowl. It took a while for my body to take to solids, but all of a sudden I was a balloon. I took me seven years to realise how hungry I was. I felt sluggish and hid from the world, curled up in front of a heater all the time and slowly expanding till I developed huge issues about the way I looked. I couldn’t stand my reflection, and then I stopped eating altogether.
My family is somewhat aware of how paranoid I was about food and things in general, and haven’t stopped pointing the finger at each other. Really, it was all of them, but that is too much dirty laundry to air out.
I became a vegetarian at eleven, despite having killed a chicken a few years back and liking it. It wasn’t a decision made on moral terms, but more so I would give myself more boundaries and therefore fewer options when it came to choosing food. Even to this day, I find it almost impossible to make a decision.
It just made sense.
I started cooking for myself and being very conscious of the way things worked together. I was very proud of getting my first severe oil burn at thirteen. My dad was more impressed with the fact that I didn’t care, but he always saw me as the son he never had.
I would manically exercise and then decide to eat a plum. That’s all. A plum, I was testing the boundaries of my body a bit, plus did I need anything more? Not really, it would just eat into my reading time, my time away from my mother. I was convinced she was trying to poison me, so I would start arguments with her and storm out of the room whenever I knew she cooked, so I wouldn’t have to eat her meals.
My sister didn’t blame me. She knew my mother didn’t like me either.
It was the same thing for a few years and I looked a little sick. A little like a bug, and I had developed stomach ulcers, acid reflux and was sick 365 days a year. I had three doctors, and I saw each of them at least once a week. None of them knew what was wrong with me, and my hair was falling out.
They said it had to do with my depression.
And stress.
I was fourteen for fuck’s sake, what the hell did I have to be stressed about?
Finally I moved out and I was working three jobs, while going to high school and being an over-achiever with an apathetic attitude, playing with cameras with my head in a book or a notepad.
I had no friends and I forgot to eat.
My partner, who was living with me at the time was scared that I was going to be dead next to him every morning.
I cooked a lot because I started training and working in kitchens. My insomnia was at an all time high and I would find myself baking bread and scones, making croissants and curry pastes in the middle of the night. I would bring them to school for the few people who could stand being around me, and not be sucked into my vacuous hole of self-loathing and lack of aural exchange.
I was baking a lot.
With this particular partner, I was playing around with a lot of flour and bought my first pizza stone. His parents loved that I cooked and would ask me to cook them dinner a few times a week. I baked goods for the local tennis team, even thought I never met them.
The ‘Ladies.’
Then I broke up with this one.
In the first two weeks apart from me, he apparently lost something like 8kg.
I realized that I was spending hundreds of dollars on produce every week at the market, cooking it and feeding everyone else. I had to sit with that and deal with it, until I just had a fridge with condiments, carrots, celery and booze. Lots of booze.
I think I was living on mustard on carrots for a few months. Then I got bored and moved on to lettuce.
If I was feeling particularly brave, I would eat vitaweats. If the world had to fuck itself, it would be vitaweats with a sharp cheddar.
At the same time, I would be cooking for my friends, holding dinner parties that I wasn’t really apart of and discovering the awesome power of the egg. Sweets and savouries in many different forms and textures. I remember one night, being so far from sleep that I managed to bake more than four hundred meringues and macaroons and just went straight to class with boxes to give away to teachers. I had way too many yolks and made a mayonnaise, hollandaise, bĂ©arnaise, custard and a ginger ice cream. I was pretty proud of that ability at seventeen, but I was yet to master the perfect poached egg. That came around just after I turned eighteen.
As with those sauces, they went rancid because I didn’t eat them and they ended up in the bin. The ice cream went to whoever visited me, and finally met with the sauce.
I started wafting around town and eating only whenever I was instructed to. I was pretty much mostly drunk, all of the time. This is when the antipasto plate period arrived, but I still didn’t eat bread. It seemed like a happy medium between vegetarian and someone who wanted something to eat, with lots of flavour.
I was also making a lot of pastas at the time, filled, rolled, whatever. But now, I had moved in with people and I was able to feed these kids now.
I started spending time with another alcoholic. A bit of a mess really. We met while I was drinking on a roof, would see each other drunk all the time and wake up sipping warm beers that had been sitting beside our heads all night. Obviously, this ended well.
Then, my vegetarianism broke. I lived in a house of meat eaters, who just wanted me not to be frail. But they didn’t do it. I developed a friendship with people who had a love of cold meats and would in turn, turn me. Now, I pretty much drank broth, ate cold meats (specifically sausage) and cheese. We developed an obsession for pho and any other fragrant noodle soups, but, hold the noodles for me, please.
Oh, and beers. Lots of beers.
Finally, gin made an appearance and then the Bloody Mary. We’d always be on cycles. It went something like this over a year and a half;
-Hoegaardens
-Bloody Mary’s
- Gin and tonics
-Martinis
- Espresso Martinis
-Hoegaardens
- Leffe
- Becks
-Bloody Mary’s
- Weihenstephaner Kristal
- Schofferhoffer hefferweizen
- Schofferhoffer Weiss
- Baltika 8
And so on…
Still, the cold meats have stuck. Then, my fondness for bread came when I started seeing a guy who lived near Sugardough and would tell me stories about French bread. It didn’t last long, but I am very aware of bread at this time.
Then, I became a vegetarian again. Briefly. I just needed to cleanse myself.
And then, a little obsession with wine, just because it was the right time and I had someone to share it with. I’d cook and then we would sit around drinking wine. I remember a lot of pesto and mushrooms happening in this stage, and again, back to the antipasto. Friends, they do that to you.
And as I let that part of me go, actual dining started to take over. I would take people out for their birthday and find that half the money now I spent on food was spent at restaurants.
Good restaurants.
I hate that I live so close to so much good food.
Now, I guess there is a balance between cooking and eating out. I hide the eating out side of me from my current partner, because of a slight disapproval. Strange to say though, despite my background, I have never eaten so much Asian food in my life, and I am seeing a Sicilian.
I like how I can manage to map out the stages in my life to food, as well as the relationships I have to people. There is a whole lot of swapping and shifting and changing as well as development. Although, in asking all my friends about how they associate me with food, the general response is that they’re all now heavier after they have met me and find themselves spending more money on food than they ever have.
Gee, thanks guys, I love you too.

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