(17) what is it about food?

When did food become so important to me? I’m worried that it is becoming too much of my identity, but I can’t quite trace the origin of this identify-forming thing.

Should I conduct interviews? My family surely remembers the stressful nights when I was responsible for fixing dinner as a high schooler and probably even younger. My struggle was never being able to make everything come out “even.” Some dishes would be overcooked, others not quite done, and being the already-chronic perfectionist that I was, I would be stressed to a boiling point, having not met the family dinner deadline.

My parents instilled in me good food rules, like “Stop eating when you’re full,” “Eat what you’re really hungry for, but in moderate quantities,” “Use restraint with dessert,” “Eat a little bit of everything, even if you think you won’t like it,” “Vegetables are delicious. So is water.” It’s not that all of these things were actually stated, but some of them were. And somehow my parents achieved a feat that is far rarer than I knew: They raised 4 children who actually enjoy vegetables and healthy foods and who are not at all picky.

On my own in college, I did a fairly good job of feeding myself. I think my friends would mostly remember my baking, though, since I (perhaps intentionally?) lavished baked goods on all of the people I loved. There is truly no easier way to gain affection than through some sweet little edible item.

Is that all it is/was, then? Just a way to earn affection? Or is it also a way to express affection? I think, I hope that was part of it too. Perhaps I should interview my college roommates.
Then there was food in Peru. I won friends in Peru simply because I would try anything and I liked most things. Raised by my parents to be a polite person and adding to that a lifetime interest in other cultures, as well as a more recent desire to learn and be sensitive to other cultures, I don’t think I admitted to disliking a single Peruvian dish until I had lived in Peru for quite a while. But in all honesty, I loved Peruvian food overall, with only 2 or 3 exceptions.

Patricia taught me how to cook Peruvian food and I finally learned the all-important lesson of how to make everything come out even. And I began to learn how important food was in understanding a culture. Isn’t that one of the first questions we would always ask someone from another place? “What do you eat there?” Or maybe that is just me or just Peru. Food is definitely important in Peruvian culture and upon meeting new Peruvian friends, their first question to me would often be, “What is your favorite Peruvian dish?” followed by “What are the typical foods in the United States?”

Food and perfectionism. Food and family and relationships and sharing. Food and loving and being loved. Food and culture and language and people.

I just don’t want to identify so closely with this trait that I lose hold of who I really am. I have friends who are also kind of “foodies.” But I don’t want to be interested in food just because my friends are and they are cool. I want to be able to let go of the trait and still be me. Is that even possible, or am I seeking a balance, an ideal, that no one can truly achieve?

My husband would say that I am (once again) over-analyzing…and he may very well be right this time, since I have no answers and only a vague sense that at least asking the questions is a helpful step.



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