I am in a food crisis. I wish I could say that this is a new problem, but it’s a very old rut, and one that I seem to find myself in repeatedly. I can’t decide what to eat, so I end up eating the same things over and over, until I can’t eat them any more.
Over the past few years, I have had many conversations with my brother-in-law, Tony, about eating well. Tony is a true artist in the kitchen. I am in awe by the effortless way he cooks. While watching him assemble a tomato and avocado salad, I wonder aloud, “How can tomato, avocados, and olive oil taste so good?” “It’s simple,” he answers while spooning me a serving. “I cook with love.”
“Eat more colors,” Tony has encouraged me wisely, causing me to wisecrack to my sister, “Did he say eat more Culver’s?” Honestly, even fast food these days feels like a treat. Last week, as I ate a Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s, I tried to feign disgust, but it was just too…delicious. I wolfed down the sandwich in a handful of bites, wondering why it tasted so good. Then I realized it was different, a break from Wheat Chex cereal and whole grain bagels.
The truth is that I love good food. But I don’t think like a cook; I think like an eater. I like savoring bites, not slaving over a stove. Eating is a full sensory experience that I want to enjoy, without the hassles of trying to decide what to eat. It’s just too much pressure. Yet a trip to WholeFoods feeds my soul. I have blissfully roamed the aisles for hours, mesmerized by the selection of exotic foods, only to return home in dismay as I try to make a meal from my purchases of lip balm, face cream, and whole grain bread.
When I do cook, I’m a harsh critic. I want my creations to be perfect—and perfectly delicious. But I can do other things, even things in the kitchen, very well. I’m a good prep chef, an excellent assistant, and a killer dishwasher. Having grown up in my mom’s kitchen, I know my way around food.
That said, I make Tony’s simple tomato-avocado salad, and it’s fine. Just fine. But there is something missing. I have left out an ingredient, as I so often do cooking for myself: love. Ah, there it is. The problem isn’t that I’m not eating. I eat. The problem is that I’m not feeding myself.
Lately, I have put a lot of energy and focus into many creative pursuits, but overlooked something basic. As I finish writing this, it occurs to me that I need to channel some creativity—and a little more love—into feeding myself well.