Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I am really intense about food.

That's something I say often, and yet people always seem surprised to find out just how true that statement is. I'm not even sure what it means to be "really intense about food." But anyone who has ever seen me eat knows that I sure as hell am.

I have always been fortunate to live with people who love to cook. Even my roommates in college didn't mind feeding me, because I so thoroughly enjoyed whatever they made. It's impossible to turn me away, apparently. I'm too joyous and grateful (I've even been known to charm servers in restaurants who clearly hate their jobs).

What's weird is that my taste in food isn't even remotely consistent with my upbringing. I'm Polish, and thus, was raised on Polish cuisine. (This means that sour cream goes on everything. Twice.) But I weigh in at just 97 pounds, and don't eat red meat. So, no kielbasa for me. (Sorry, Grandma.)

I want to say that my avoidance of red meat stemmed from things I've learned by watching documentaries and reading books. But no. As a child, I couldn't pronounce "roast beef." Instead, I called it "gross beef." And I guess the idea just stuck. In one of my favorite photos of myself (above), I'm sitting at the kitchen table, pouting over a hot dog (doused in ketchup to disguise the taste). According to my mother, I sat there stubbornly for hours. I was four. That was the last time my mother tried to make me eat red meat.

At eighteen, I moved to Saginaw. My roommate Tracy loved to cook, and every Thursday night, would make dinner for everyone who lived with us. Luckily for me, she'd also invite her sister Tricia, a vegetarian, to join us. So even as a poor college student, I ate like a champion.

I was in Saginaw for three years, and in those three years, my parents got used to my absence. They stopped keeping veggie burgers in the freezer, etc.

So now I'm living with them again, and am on my own a lot for dinner. And I've been inching closer and closer to vegetarianism. The kids I babysit are being raised as vegetarians, and one of my favorite things to do is snoop through their fridge/cupboards for ideas. I've taken to sampling what I find, and then going to the store with a list of what I like.

Furthermore, their mom works at a health food store and has about a zillion books on health/fitness. Compulsive reader that I am, I've looked through those, too. And they're fascinating.

I figure that since I'm on my own a lot grocery-wise, I may as well have fun with it and learn stuff. I'm in college and it's expensive to eat healthy food all the time. But my body demands that I eat healthy food, so I do. It punishes me if I don't. (I forgot to mention that I brought a great deal of shame upon the people of Poland the first time I ever ate a paczki. I threw up every half an hour for an entire night. My little seven-year-old body was just like, "That shit is gross. I'm going to get rid of it.")

And it's weird. Because I don't believe in counting calories. Math really isn't my thing, for one, so counting calories just sucks the enjoyment out of the experience for me. I freaking love food. Watch me eat, and you'll understand.

So for me, being healthy it isn't about limiting myself, or taking away things that give me pleasure. It's about giving my body what it wants. And my body is a selfish, greedy, demanding little fucker much of the time. I don't care that it's snowing. Take me for a bike ride. Right now. And I'm hungry. I'd like some salmon. The free-range kind. No, I don't care that your wallet doesn't support my lifestyle. If I'm not around to support your lifestyle, then what the hell are you gonna do? That's right. I win.

There are very few things that bring me joy lately. (Living in suburbia will do that to you.) I've been lonely, sad, and overwhelmed by a lot of things. So if I can be selfish and healthy at the same time, then that's what I'm going to do.

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