Monday, July 29, 2013

Food, Glorious Food!

I am a junkie for free food. There, I’ve said it, and I don’t necessarily feel better for unloading, but it needed to be confessed.

As a kid growing up in post-war Europe, food was scarce. Not starvation scarce, but limited enough that nothing went to waste. I remember my mother candling eggs, holding them up to a bright light to see if there were twin yolks. Twin yolks in the frying pan became two eggs, not one. I remember bouilli and still shudder at the memory of the grainy, pasty dish made by boiling day old country bread in water and adding a dash of salt and pepper.  On many occasions, that was dinner. I don’t remember seeing oranges or bananas as a kid, though there were apples and pears. And potatoes--not the monstrous two-pound tuber found here, but small, dense and thick-skinned things that were cooked whole, as informed sources told us the peel held the vitamins.  

Many decades later, it’s almost impossible for me to pass up an offer of free food. If my local store offers free cheese sample, tiny cubes meant to be speared singly with a toothpick, I will skewer seven or eight of them and be proud of the skills I display.  Then I will hover about the fast-emptying platter. I remember when my neighborhood Whole Foods, an upscale store, put out samples of expensive Italian salami. I set what I am sure remains a store record by working with two toothpicks in each hand. A week later they had free stuffed green olives. I returned to the display five times.

Megastores like Costco will be the death of me. On any given day, there are free samples of pizza, sausage, cookies, little dabs of tuna fish on crackers, deviled eggs, dumplings, salsa, ice cream, chicken salad and, if you’re fortunate, brownies. There is such a thing as a free meal!

Free food becomes not mere sustenance but a true and harmful passion.

Recently, I’ve given up all-I-can-eat buffet restaurants. I came to realize that I was exorcising all sorts of demons by trying to get my money’s worth out of a meal. I feel I am only doing my job if, for $12, I eat a pound of bacon, and another pound of assorted pork products.  In fact, deep down, I really believe someone who spends twelve bucks and come back with two potato slices, a half-tomato and a scoop of scrambled eggs is a miscreant, sort of. “Eat!” I want to say. “Eat! Winter is coming! War and famine are just beyond the horizon.”

I also have to fight my impulse to hoard food. In one of my rare wise decision, I recently opted against the offer of a free freezer I could have put in my garage. My first reaction was an enthusiastic, “Yes, I’ll take it!”  By morning, I had decided it was a bad idea, since it would enable me to hoard additional--and unneeded--victuals.

A few years ago I gave up refined sugar. More recently, after a long and still current bout with bladder cancer, I gave up artificial sweeteners.  Last week, I abandoned chocolate. I’m trying and so far failing to give up bread. It’s been generally easier for me to let go of other things--tobacco, alcohol, unprescribed pharmaceuticals--than it has to say good-bye to my morning bagel, or baguette, or English muffin. There’s probably a reason bread is called the staff of life.

I have friends who are much better with food than I am. They leave half their meals untouched, or pass up opportunities to stuff themselves. I find that amazing, and I envy their determination. Me, it’s all I can do to pass up the free tidbits, but I am making headway. Yesterday I made an omelet.  I only ate half.  Progress, not perfection.




1 comment:

  1. And the half you didn't eat? Don't tell me you put it in the trash.