Let me start off by saying that I am not a sensory person. I'm cerebral. I like to live inside my head. I am often incredibly oblivious to the environment surrounding me, and it takes great effort to tune in and pay attention to my senses. I don't think this is a better way to be; I don't think it's worse. It just is.
Food, obviously, is a sensory experience. Shopping, preparing, eating: all involve the senses, seeing and touching and smelling and--needless to say--tasting. Menu planning, on the other hand, is more cerebral, involving listmaking, comparing, contrasting and planning. Menu planning is my only assigned chore in the arena of feeding our family, and is the only part of food management that I find even tolerable. Besides eating, of course, which is enjoyable, but certainly not worth all the work it entails to get there. When I'm hungry, it's not that I want to eat. It's just that I want NOT to be hungry anymore. If there were a quicker way to get there, I'd take it.
When my next-youngest sister went away to college, she studied environmentalism at a hippie school out west and was exposed to a host of new ideas, some enlightening and some just plain weird. On a summer visit home she told me of a man she had read about who existed on no food whatsoever, just vitamins and herbs. He had determined the exact mix of nutrients the body required to operate and took only these each day. As she told me about him, I couldn't tell if she approved or disapproved of this approach. I was hoping she disapproved, because if she approved, it meant she had gotten too weird out in hippie land. Much to my relief, she disapproved. But over the years, I've found myself thinking with longing about this man and his unorthodox approach to nutrition. While I doubt that it's ideal for the body, which after all was designed to eat food, not pills, I'm envious of the simplicity of popping pills each day with nary a thought to what's for dinner. Think of all the time he saves!
I eat the exact same breakfast every day. Vanilla yogurt, 1 cup, with a quarter cup of granola, same brand, same flavor. For the whole first year I lived with my husband I made smoothies each morning, rinsing the blender immediately afterward and leaving it upside down in the drying rack to await the next morning's use. Another year it was a bagel with peanut butter and orange juice. Do I tire of my formulaic morning meal? No, I do not.
I eat the same lunch every day too, although it varies slightly with the seasons. From April through about October I eat salad. Sometimes I alter the ingredients, but it's typically composed of lettuce, tomatoes, grilled chicken, feta cheese and grated carrots, with Italian dressing. At times I add avocado, or a variety of fresh berries, but for months on end I'll eat the same salad every day.
From October through April, the months when the lettuce tastes terrible in Upstate New York, I eat soup. My husband cooks large batches of a variety of soups, and I freeze them in single serve tupperware containers. Then we keep back-up servings of fresh soup from the grocery store, canned soup, and Ramen noodles. While I don't mind eating the same salad every single day, I've found I need variety in my soup. However, despite the obvious superiority of homemade and fresh soup, or even canned, to Ramen, I find myself choosing Ramen surprisingly often. I know exactly why this is. I have to think about the other kinds more often: earlier in the week to put it on the grocery list, or earlier in the day to take it out of the freezer to defrost. Ramen requires no forethought and almost no preparation: 5 minutes in the microwave and it's good to go. I cannot overstate my deep hatred of thinking about food. The closer my daily meal plan resembles an assembly line, and works like a well-oiled machine, the better.
I eat very little processed food. Probably sounds surprising, given my dislike of food preparation, but I don't. I have a tendency to binge on processed sugary foods, so I just don't buy them. I don't fad diet (South Beach is the only diet I've ever done, or spent a dime on. I bought the book, did the first week, and never looked at it again.); I pretty much don't diet at all. I like to eat whole foods, in season, the less prep the better. A raw food diet sounded like heaven to me because I thought it involved just eating raw food. When I found out there were recipes and prep involved, I lost interest. In a similar vein, when I read about people who claim to live on air alone, I wished I could believe them! Alas, my skepticism won out and I never gave breathatarianism a shot. Intuitive eating sounds to me like the best "diet plan," but it involves paying attention to food, and that's exactly my problem. I find food to be intolerably boring. I took an intuitive eating seminar once, as part of a fitness conference I attended. We had to very, very slowly chew a hershey's kiss while paying close attention to the taste, texture, and sensory experience of chocolate. I found myself thinking that I'd sooner never taste chocolate again than have to think about it so damn much! I'd choose a chef over a housekeeper any day. I don't much like cleaning, but it's never put me into a fury of frustration. Twenty minutes in the kitchen is a living fucking hell. Scrubbing the bathroom is only purgatory.
Imagine, if you will, conversing with the following well-meaning fellow on a regular basis:
Fellow: So what socks are you wearing?
Fellow: What socks are you wearing today? I'm wearing grey sweat socks, with a small navy band around the ankle. Comfortable and sporty. What about you?
You: Um, white.
Fellow: Oh. What socks do you want to wear tomorrow?
Fellow: What socks will you wear tomorrow? It's Sunday, so you'll want something to match your outfit. We should think about what you have planned for the day to be sure your sock selection makes sense. In fact, we should really think about all the socks you might need this week. We might need to go sock shopping! It's spring now, so you'll want some ankle socks for the warmer weather. Have you looked in your drawers lately to see what's in there, sockwise? Do you have a variety of colors? What about organic cotton? Are any of your socks organic cotton? I've heard organic is superior. And there's texture to consider. Are your socks soft enough? Should we go right now, and compare softness between various brands of socks you have on hand? That way we can plan what socks you need to buy to ensure a balance in your weekly sock rotation. Oh! The Sunday paper is coming tomorrow! There will be circulars with sock sales! We can spend 728 hours looking at the Sunday circulars for sock sales and maybe save 27 cents! We could google dress socks right now to see what new styles are out! Want to make a list of different sock possibilities to go with every outfit you've ever owned or may ever own in the future? I have a
You: *Banging your head on the nearest wall, and praying for a quick loss of consciousness*
That's my husband and I, talking about food, from my perspective. Because every bit of how cerebral I am? He's that sensory. And guess what he loves? Yep. Food.
Tonight I'm on my own for dinner. And I hear a carrot and a glass of water calling my name. If I want to get buck wild and go all gourmet I'll dip that bad boy in some peanut butter. No fuss. No muss. No dishes or discussion. Precisely my kind of meal!
I wouldn't last a month without him, would I?
I'd totally be the crazy, food-hating lady whose toddler ran off to live in a pizza parlor after a week of raw food without preparation, and who later became the first known fatality and only victim drawn in by a roving cult of breathatarians. In the interest of avoiding that certain fate, I'm off to make our weekly menu plan while munching on my carrot. I might even whip up some ranch dressing. After all this tedious talk about food, my culinary gifts have surely expanded! Which means I just might be capable of making ranch dressing with mayonnaise and a mix. God, I hope the directions are right there on the packet. Fuck it; I can already tell it's getting too complicated. I'm going to have that carrot plain.