I have always loved food.
When I was young we ate dinner every night at the dining room table under the glow of candles, Van Morrison playing in the background. We feasted on creamy pastas, garlic infused salads, finger-licking spicy chicken wings or my dad’s curry, which we would chase down with yoghurt, cucumbers and cut up bananas.
Some nights we would make our own pizzas, and carry large steaming slices upstairs to watch movies. Other nights we would make tacos or burritos, building our own along the kitchen counter, the insides spilling out as we took big bites, salsa spilling onto our chins.
I grew up with two older brothers who taught me that ice cream should be served in big mounds, and that if I wanted to hold on to any candy or cookies, I had to hide it from their hungry hands.
I spent part of my childhood in France, where we visited the Roquefort caves, and were probably the first Canadian children to fall madly in love with stinky blue cheese. Driving away from the caves, we ate the potent cheese in the car, stopping in each town for more baguette to envelope its creamy texture.
When I returned to France as a teenager years later, I re-discovered my love of cheese, as well as Nutella spread across small toast crackers. But somewhere in my teen years my love of food started to seem like a curse. As a perfectionist I wanted a thinner body, longer legs and a prettier face. I couldn’t do anything about my legs or my face, so I became focused on the body.
While living in Northern Ireland, the distance from close friends and family made it easier to deprive myself. I searched for control and found it in food. To my advantage, I discovered I loved vegetables, steamed parsnip from the market, hearty stir-fries and salads. To my disadvantage I grew uneasy with any other foods. Without noticing, fat fell off my bones, my breasts disappeared and my monthly period ceased to exist. I felt accomplished and horrified all at once.
I don’t recommend deprivation. In the end, I felt sexless, looked malnourished, and spent a long time getting my body back. I have since not lost my love of clean, healthy foods, but I have re-gained my love for substance and adventure in food as well.
I spent a couple of years fooling around with diets, before I realized the importance of listening to my body. What did I crave? Was I full yet? I discovered that eating exactly what I want, and stopping I'm full, is the key to happiness and comfort in my body.
These days, as I hike my way into womanhood, food is a big part of my life. It connects me not only with myself, but with different cultures and people.
At the restaurant, a conversation about how to make proper salsa with the Mexican line-cook helped form a friendship that will probably last through my life. My ranting and raving about food to the chef-who assumed I was "one of those girls who doesn't eat"-brought us together as a couple.
This morning I feasted on pastries picked out from Korea town-a red bean bun and custard cream bun-and espresso made on my stovetop. Starting the day like this helps me to see how rich life can be, that every day has the potential for new tastes and experiences.
Nothing brings people together more harmoniously than a beautiful meal, and nothing connects me and my body more than nutritious food put together by my own hands.
I’ll save the diets for those on the catwalk, and continue to walk through life with a good appetite.
This post was inspired by my most current read- women who eat
- a book I recommend to any woman with a fascination for flavor.