The Food Rules

Obviously I’ve been a bit slack with the ol’ blog recently. Its not my fault really, things have been very busy and overwhelming the past little while. I’ve spent pretty much every spare moment of my past weekend sleeping. Also, I just haven’t been able to think of much to write about recently. Its not that I haven’t been doing anything (obviously I have), but… well, none of it seemed  interesting enough to put in a blog post. Making things even more difficult, my short-term memory seems to be completely shot (I blame the alcohol), meaning that remembering what I did two days ago to write it down in a blog post was a bit a task.

Anyway. This post doesn’t seem like its that important or worthy either, but I also feel like I should just write something. Before I completely give up on the blog entirely.

So. I’ve spent many years eating very oddly and even if, these days, I pretty much eat like a normal person (though perhaps a little bit more than I should), I still have a few hang-ups about food. These translate into the ‘food rules’, which are certain rules I have to eat by, otherwise I don’t feel happy/satisfied by the food I’ve eaten. In fact, if I don’t get to eat by these rules I can end up feeling quite anxious and/or upset. I’ve actually gone to the extent of explaining these rules to people I’m eating with, just so they don’t feel insulted or upset by my odd behaviour. Some of them are totally inocuos, others are a bit weirder.

1. You must eat everything on your plate. You don’t throw food away. I know a lot of people feel this way because of parents, low-income, ‘there-are-starving-children-in-Africa’ etc, but for me, its such a regret, such an upsetting thing (and such an uncommon experience), that I can still remember particular times in my life when I have had to leave food on my plate, because I will actually throw up if I eat anymore, and I’ve gone on to regret it for years afterwards. For example, the end of my three-course Christmas meal in Budapest, at a restaurant by the Blue Danube, 2005. Oh, the regret over those final bites of cottage cheese balls in their berry coulis and sour cream.

2. Things on your plate must be eaten in order of worst to best. This is a hang-up from childhood. Dad and us kids had many battles over food, until he discovered stir-fries. Chris and I loved them. And they were pretty healthy, having, as they did, a mix of meat and veg and carbohydrates. Dad would always put 3 or 4 veg into the meals and he would cut us a deal: we could choose one vegetable not to eat, but we had to eat the rest. So, inevitably Chris and I would eat all the other veg first, to get it out of the way, and then move on to the parts of the meal we liked. I still do this now: eating my veg in order of the one I like least to the one I like the most, then moving on to the protein and finally the sauce-y rice or pasta or whatever carbohydrate I have left (because that is obviously the best bit). This is even though I very much like pretty much all veg very much now and have no problem eating it. Interestingly though, I do think this way of eating helps me to achieve rule no. 1. See, if you’re eating the things you don’t like that much first, and leaving the things you really want to eat until the end, you have an incentive to finish everything. I can remember an old friend of mine who used to drive me mental with his eating habits. He would, always, ALWAYS, leave a tiny bite of food on his plate at the end of the meal and claim he was ‘too full’ to completely finish it off, whereas I would have licked my plate clean. It made me feel like quite the heifer, especially considering he was a guy and I was a girl. But, then I realised that he ate his meal in the opposite way to me: things he liked best first. Meaning he had no incentive to finish everything on his plate. Especially if it was a just a shrivelled up bit of some vegetable that he didn’t particularly like anyway.

 

3.  We don’t share food. If we go to a restaurant and you suggest we order two plates and ‘share’, you will see a look of horror pass over my face, which will quickly be followed by me reminding you that I am a vegetarian and therefore, if you want any meat, this whole sharing situation isn’t going to work. Its my saving grace, because, really, even if I ate meat I wouldn’t want to share with you. This is because I have very strong feelings about the food I want to eat. I have all sorts of reasons for choosing one meal over another and once I’ve made that decision, I stick to it. I don’t understand other people’s indecision or ‘hedge-betting’ with food. You choose something and then you stick to it. If that means that when the two meals come out, one of us is disappointed, well, that is just life. And if that means I’m the one disappointed, well, then, that’s fine (incidentally, I don’t remember many times I have been disappointed, mainly because I have so many strong, well-thought out reasons for choosing one thing over another). You may have a taste (a TASTE) of my food and I of yours, if you insist, but this is mainly to establish who has won the competition of who made the right food decision. Or, if no winner can be determined, then the taste merely serves to prove to yourself that you made the right decision. Get it?

5. I don’t share food. ‘But, wait, Jenny, you just explained this one, remember?’ No, no. This is a whole different situation. If I, for example, buy a bag of crisps, or a bag of popcorn, or a bag of lollies or a bag of carrots or a bag of anything that is small and could potentially be shared, well… you’ve got it… I don’t share. See, the thing is, that I bought that bag of food because I wanted all the food in it. I calculated that I was hungry enough for all of the small items contained within that bag. I didn’t buy it because I was only hungry enough for  half of the tiny items contained within that bag. Of course, that doesn’t mean that on a picnic I will bring all my own food and refuse to share with you. As long as I know, in advance, that sharing is in my future, I can prepare accordingly. Usually in the form of giant bags of little things, or buying far too many bags of little things. Just to ensure that I get as much as I want and that there is plenty for everyone else as well.  This does cut both ways, however. If I say to someone with a bag of crisps, ‘Oh, that looks good,’ it is not a hint that I want you to offer me some of your food. No, no, I would never be so presumptuous to suggest you give me some of your food, even in a roundabout way. I am merely honestly commenting on the fact that your food looks good. I am jealous of your food bounty, but that does not mean that I feel I should be given any of it. I am a socialist when it comes to government policy, but when it comes to the sharing of food on an individual basis, its everyone for themselves.

5. If I’m going to order dessert, I like to see it ahead of time. I therefore prefer ordering desserts in cafes or cake shops, where I can see the size of the portions, the colour of the cakes, the textures, the decorations etc. so that I can make an informed decision. I spent so many years avoiding cake entirely that dessert is, these days, a huge deal for me. A good 10 years of telling myself I was never allowed to eat cake, deserves, I feel, another 10 years AT LEAST of revelling in the wonderfulness of cake. In treating it with respect, savouring it with tiny bites and greeting each new slice with joy, delight and happiness. Ok, yes, its just cake to you, but to me, it is CAKE, WONDER OF THE UNIVERSE. One day I hope to join the ranks of the rest of you normal people and come to regard cake as slightly lower down the excitement level (from a 15 on a scale of 10, to say a 6), but until that day, you must put up with me dragging you around cafe after cafe, inspecting all of their desserts before eventually deciding on the place with the best and most generous servings. Also, related to the past two points: I won’t share a dessert with you. Because this will make me sad. A sadness that has no cure until the next slice of cake is bought, which can only happen on the next day (one and a half slices of cake on one day tends to make me anxious and/or upset, despite its wonderfulness). If you’re not hungry enough for a full serving then just buy one and eat half of it. Because I can guarantee you I will finish my whole portion (except, of course, in exceptional circumstances: see Budapest, Christmas 2005).

5. Cheesecake is the best cake. If a place doesn’t have cheesecake then its not worth staying there. That’s not to say I will always have cheesecake, but it does mean that I would always like to have the opportunity of choosing cheesecake. In fact, that would be a good way of living life: always having the opportunity for cheesecake.

Everyone should, at all times, have the opportunity for cheesecake. Does that kind of make me sound worryingly like Marie Antoinette? Found at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/cheesecake

Everyone should, at all times, have the opportunity for cheesecake. Does that make me sound worryingly like Marie Antoinette? Found at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/cheesecake

6. When I buy fresh bread (the kind you get from a bakery, not the kind pre-sliced and in a plastic bag), I have to eat the ends of the bread that day. There is nothing better than fresh bread crusts. But they’re only nice on the day the bread is baked. After that they’re awful. But on that first day, they’re beautiful.

7. Two carrots a day is enough for anyone. This rule came about after I turned myself orange one time from eating too many carrots and too much pumpkin over the course of a couple of months. People thought I had jaundice.

8. Onion is, actually, the devil’s food. A hang-up from childhood, I still feel nauseous whenever  crunching into a giant piece of onion. I will tear apart a meal, looking for any onion before eating, giving no regard to social graces or how long it takes me to get all the onion out or if my meal gets cold during the process. I am able to eat onion now if its chopped up fairly small and cooked until its incredibly soft and mixed up in a curry or pasta sauce (so you can’t actually determine the individual taste or texture of said onion), but that is pretty much the only situation I will allow onion to pass my lips. I also have an aversion to the following onion-like things: leeks and chives. None of these things are put into my cooking. They are omitted from all recipes, no matter how vital the cooking book says they are (or, in cases of things like potato & leek soup and caramelised onion, where they are a crucial part of the ingredients list, these recipes are never made). I do, however, adore garlic, which some people find odd, but I do not at all. Because garlic is amazing and onion is, as we have already established, the devil’s food. I mean, the damn things make you cry. Surely that is a sign that you shouldn’t be eating it. Food should only bring joy!

There are many other less important rules that go towards my decision-making when it comes to food, but that’ll do for the moment. April blog post: complete!

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