Food Fancy

It’s ironic that I would open the latest issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine which is dedicated to food while eating my meager breakfast consisting of an oatbran muffin baked over a week ago, a tiny dish of blueberries, and a half glass of grapefruit juice.

It’s even more ironic that I would continue reading it during my lunch, which was more pathetic yet – a meager amount of tuna salad on dry wheat bread and a handful of Goldfish crackers, washed down with the lukewarm water in my Sigg bottle – particularly since the article was a wonderful interview with Ruth Reichl, who is my absolute heroine in the food writing department. She had some great thoughts about food, and writing, and why we’re so interested in the whole subject of gastronomy these days. I’m just glad she didn’t see what I was eating – there was certainly nothing to write about in those meals.

In fact, she talks about this very subject in the interview.  “People want that connection to food,” she says, “because they’re getting up, they’re not eating breakfast, they’re grabbing fast food for lunch, and coming home and sticking something in the microwave for dinner. Everybody eats on their own. I think people take cookbooks to bed to pretend. I always thought those spreads we did in Gourmet (magazine) were so important to people because they were like virtual dinners and people wanted to put themselves at that table.”

I’m not quite as bad as the typical eater she describes. I usually eat three fairly healthy meals, and they’re mostly prepared at home.  But I do have a lot more interest in the idea of food than in the actual food itself. I love to peruse the cookbook section in the bookstores, and can easily spend hours watching people like Ina Garten and Giada Laurentis on the Food Network. I could make that! I think, as Ina dishes up some delightfully elegant and seemingly effortless dish to her guests in the garden.

But I don’t.  Oh, sometimes I might go as far as looking up the recipe on-line and even printing it out.  I’ll put it in my “recipes to try” folder, where it sits until the twelfth of never.

And I love reading about other people’s experience with food. Ruth Reichl has written two delicious food memoirs, Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples.  I get completely lost in those books, and want to eat everything she talks about in them.

But I don’t.

I think we all have a food story.  Nothing seems more fraught with ways to complicate our lives than food.  We either love it too much and overindulge, or hate it (or at least its effect on our bodies) and become anorexic.  I grew up with the Southern outlook on food – it’s love, it’s comfort, somebody worked hard to make it for you so have another helping honey, there’s plenty more where that came from. When I go home to my mother’s house, no matter what she’s cooking I’ll eat it up – even if I know in my heart it’s not good for me, even if I don’t really like it all that much anymore.

My relationship with food is actually rather ambivalent. I enjoy it, but I don’t think about it overmuch. If there is really good food available, I’ll gladly eat it, but if not, I’m just as happy with the oatbran muffin or the paltry tuna sandwich. I’ve often said if I lived alone I’d probably subsist on tomato soup and tuna salad sandwiches, with an occasional spinach and feta cheese omelet thrown in for variety. I sometimes resent all the time and money it takes to put those three relatively healthy meals on the table, and occasionally wish I could just swallow a pill that would satisfy my hunger pangs and give me all the nutrition I need.

But then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the dinner I just had.  Homemade chicken pot pie, loaded with tender chunks of chicken, carrots, snap peas, and potatoes, all blanketed within velvety gravy, with garden fresh roast zucchini, sweet corn, and sliced tomatoes on the side.

Yum.

Now that’s a meal worth writing about. And definitely a meal worth eating.

How about you? What’s your relationship with food? Do you love to love it, or just plain love it?

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Food Fancy

  1. We have very similar attitudes about food, I can have cereal or muffins for breakfast every day of the week. Lunch is peants and an apple probably 5 days a week and if I lived alone, dinner would definitely be vert simple, likely salad and baked fish.

    Not to say that I don’t enjoy an occasional night out with a nice dinner, I still am very health conscious about what I eat. I try very hard to follow the 80 – 20 rule for food, eat all the right foods 80% of the time and not worry about the other 20%.

    • I’m pretty regimented when it comes to my regular meals…boring, I guess, but I’m pretty healthy and rarely have any digestive troubles, so maybe it’s a good thing!

  2. I don’t know if it’s because we are related or just think the same way. But your comments about food certainly hit a cord with me – especially the southern focus on food. Mom always was a good cook – as your mother is – but I can remember going to Aunt Emily’s for the first time for a family meal and thinking – who is she inviting the Army? Two kinds of meat, several vegetables, potatoes, home-made biscuits and of course her wonderful peach cobbler. Makes my mouth water to think of it. As my tomatoes start ripening I’m reminded of have “hillbilly breakfasts” growing up. Fried potatoes, pork chops, biscuits and gravy and sliced tomatoes for breakfast! I loved every spoonful. Definitely not good for you but can you beat it – I don’t think so.

    • My goodness, I remember my first meal at Aunt Emily’s house too, as if it were yesterday, and I was completely amazed at the sheer volume of food that appeared on the table at every meal. She kept a huge bowl of biscuit dough in the fridge at all times just in case somebody came in and needed to eat.

      I suppose when you have half a dozen kids plus grandkids living nearby you’d get use to feeding an army!

  3. Now that I’m back to cooking for one and free to cook what I like, my food-life actually will be easier.

    I don’t mind eating the same thing every day – if it’s good food – so Sunday is my cooking day. I’ll do things that can be easily fixed up for supper during the week, when I’m too tired to cook when I come home. Last week I baked meatloaf and sweet potatoes, and made a good cabbage salad that keeps in the fridge for a week to ten days. It’s easy enough to add a vegetable and there’s your meal!

    I’ll also cook up a pile of sweet Italian turkey sausage with onions, peppers and celery and divide it up, freezing some. That can be the basis for anything from stuffed peppers to spaghetti sauce, or a wonderful stove top dish I love. Chicken chili does the trick, too. You get the idea.

    On the other hand, that chicken pot pie looks wonderful! Once I have things a little more in hand, I may give something like that a try. I don’t have time or money for elaborate cooking, but I love good food. You’ll not find me in the fast food line. I’d rather have a canteloupe than a burger from one of those places. Not snobbery, just preference.

    • I get in a routine of cooking the things that we both like and that I know always turn out well. It makes mealtime less of a hassle all the way around.

      Last summer I learned a bunch of new “healthier” recipes because my husband had to change his diet for health reasons. So I had to step outside the box of my 60’s upbringing and start cooking more fish and vegetables and less prepared foods. It’s a good change, and I need to expand on that. My little grandson will be fed only all natural foods, I know, so I have to learn to cook for him (or be the evil granny who feeds him all the bad stuff!)

    • I adore the fresh from the garden stuff- I don’t have a garden, and my neighbor with the huge garden that supplied all of us has moved away. So I’ve found a good local farm stand to keep me going. Looking forward to tomatoes pretty soon!

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