How do you stay so thin?”
That’s a question I’ve been asked many times in my life, often followed by, “You better enjoy it now because once you go to college/get married/have kids/turn forty, you’ll wish you had.”
Well, I’ve passed those hurdles and yet I remain thin, much to the annoyance of pretty much everyone. When people ask about my weight it’s never meant as a compliment. Rather, it’s an irritated demand, like, “Why the hell do you get to stay a skinny bitch when the rest of us have to count every calorie?
To be honest, I’ve wondered the same thing.
The only thing I can come up with is that I’m thin because my family is thin. I don’t mean it’s genetics, I mean we think and eat like thin people. Unlike the many who live to eat, we are the freaks who eat to live.
I come from a family of overly anxious “everything needs to be in its place” types, and for us food is just another mess-creating hurdle in the day. As my eldest sister once said, “If I could take a pill instead of eating, I would.”
The fact that my mom was a horrible cook didn’t help matters. There were no spices in her kitchen. Even the use of salt was frowned upon. Meat was served so well done you could hear it screaming for mercy.
Once an adult, and out on my own, little changed. But then I met the man who would become my husband – a man who loves to eat. A man who LIVES to eat.
Every one of his fond memories involves a meal. He’d recall events by their menu, “Remember, it was the time we met Dan and Brian at that place where we had the caramelized honey short ribs?” Or, “Let’s stay at that hotel, you know, the one with the bar that served the seared ahi and avocado tartare.”
Um, no, I don’t remember the short ribs or the tartare. Perhaps actual names or dates would be of help?
His grandparents owned a bakery, so his family life revolved around cooking, baking and food. I knew our families were different, but never was this more apparent than when it came to the holidays.
“Hey, what happened to my beer?” my husband asked at our first Christmas with my family.
“Oh, were you still drinking that?” one of my sisters responded.
I guess I should have warned him. Though my family hosted a traditional Christmas with the appropriate menu, the real focus of our holiday was maintaining order.
If someone made the mistake of leaving a glass unattended on a coffee table, it would quickly be bussed to the dishwasher before the owner had a chance to return. Within seconds of a present being opened, another family member would swoop in to grab the discarded paper, and rush it outside to the garbage bag.
But the real shock came when my husband tasted our food. My family served what looked like a delicious holiday meal, but it wasn’t really. Peppered with disdain yet void of actual seasoning, our bland overcooked turkey and boxed mix stuffing deeply disturbed him. The previously frozen limp green beans, the canned yams, and the jarred cranberries nearly drove him to tears.
But the ultimate insult, to this man of purebred baker stock, was the taste-free bone dry crusted store bought dessert that tried to pass itself off as pie. He was duly horrified, but finally understood why there wasn’t an overweight one in the bunch.
Over the years he tried to initiate change to the holiday meal, but with little result. Finally he took matters into his own hands, and hosted Christmas at our own home.
Our guests were greeted with bacon wrapped dates, assorted veggies, and multiple cheeses. Dinner arrived complete with chorizo cornbread stuffing, French green beans with almond and garlic slivers, and his special recipe macaroni and cheese. And then, my husband topped it off by serving his homemade pie. Five kinds of pie.
For food lovers it would have been truly glorious. My family was appreciative, though my mother had difficulty accepting change. She questioned the omission of canned yams and noted, “Macaroni and cheese on Christmas? That’s so unusual, but I’m sure some people like it.”
It seems even when the food is good, we don’t enjoy it like others. Like this year when my sister and I agreed to host Thanksgiving together at my elderly mother’s house. My husband wisely stood back and silently watched as my sister and I made a menu and planned. Neither of us was willing to actually cook, so I ordered stuffing, potatoes and turkey from a local grocery store.
It wasn’t until the morning of Thanksgiving that I realized we forgot to buy any sort of appetizer. My sister, who never snacks, was unconcerned, but at this moment my husband could keep quiet no longer. “Are you mad?” There has to be something for people to eat while we wait to eat! Neither my sister or I really understood that logic, but then again, we’re thin.
I’m sure that serving already cooked foods sounds easy, but reheating that turkey and all those sides in my mom’s tiny microwave was exhausting.
After hours of endless rounds of zapping, we finally got the meal on the table and it tasted, well, like Thanksgiving. Then, thirty seconds after the last bite, we spent two hours cleaning up.
Driving home that night, I think I finally figured out the answer to that frequent question. A good meal, according to my husband, involves a food-splattered kitchen, sauce drippings on a nice shirt, crumbs on the tablecloth, spilled wine on linen napkins, and jokes about who made the biggest mess. That mess is a sign of a thoroughly enjoyed meal.
But for people like me that trade off isn’t worth it.
I’d rather take a pill.