Food is important to me. It’s in my operating system. It’s on my home screen. If you grow up near the ocean, you surf. You hear the shudder and hiss of waves thumping into the sand your whole life and at some point you wade out there with a chunk of fiberglass because you have to put that fury and power in your world for real. If you grow up near the mountains, you climb. You grow up in the woods, you run naked through them… Or whatever….
Anyway, I grew up around food. My mother made breakfast every. God. Damn. Morning. And if you’re thinking that she was dousing some Frosted Flakes, or creaming some wheat, just stop right there, because she wasn’t. The woman made crepes. She made cinnamon rolls. She made bacon and eggs and hash browned potatoes and then she picked up her briefcase and slipped into her heels and she went to her job. No one would have blamed her for phoning in breakfast. In the age of pop tarts and Captain Crunch, plenty of parents did. But not her.
And neither did my dad. There wasn’t a single day in my childhood in which he didn’t ask me what sounded good for dinner, usually right when I walked in the door from school. After that, you’d find him out in the backyard on his hands and knees, blowing into a coal starter, the smell of smoke and marinated something or other wafting in through the screen door, California sunlight hanging in the trees in the backyard.
When I sat at the counter of that kitchen watching mom dart around with her spatula before rushing off to her ball-busting job, or watching dad flick collard greens around in the pan, freshly home from his, a fact began to slowly chisel itself into my brain:
Food is important.
And throughout the course of my life, that fact has stood unflinchingly in the face of all my experiences. Screaming across the Midwest on a cross country road trip, an uncle took us in and fed us homemade dinner at a real kitchen table after a week and a half of McDonalds over a steering wheel, and we were loved. Alone in a new city full of strangers, my new coworkers took me to a bar and started a taco Tuesday tradition and we were accepted. Working a long night shift with a 50 year old Somalian woman with whom I had nothing in common, I brought up Somalian cooking and her eyes lit up and we were friends.
So, fuck all that food shaming. Fuck calorie restriction, and all those holier than thou memes about whether you’d rather have French fries or toned calves.
I’ll take French fries every time
Because, food isn’t a gallon of unleaded for your body and it’s not something to feel guilty about enjoying.
Food is culture. It’s a chunk of our life story. It’s important.