Today, thank heavens, all of that has changed. I’m a cook, and pretty much every major decision I make these days revolves around what I’m going to eat, when, and with whom.
I’ve always had a big appetite, but growing up I remember feeling so self-conscious about how much I loved eating, wanting to go back for seconds, what I wanted to eat and when. It didn’t help that I was a big eating-my-feelings kind of kid (and man, I had lots of feelings), so I started to associate food with the twin demons of social anxiety and emotional insecurity.
It also doesn’t help that a lot of the messages we get from pop culture about women enjoying food (when we’re not being subtly encouraged not to eat it at all) tends to veer into a laugh line of the “sad-woman-eating-ice-cream-alone” variety. What we don’t get a lot of is the idea that food is what brings us together in so many amazing ways.Whether you’re at the kitchen table with roommates or mom, out at a restaurant, walking down the street with a bagel, or having a picnic–eating means participating in a history of human connection. Food has always been a shared experience, from the days when people hunted buffalo on the plains to special occasions when we eat fancy pants meals at three-star restaurants.
And from what I’ve learned, from working in restaurants to making big dinners for friends, when food brings us together, we are engaging in some amazing acts of intimacy. People like seeing each other enjoy life–and part of that is enjoying food! If you went to lunch with a friend, and she just picked at a salad while you chowed down on a sandwich, you’d think something might be wrong with her, or that she wasn’t enjoying herself, right? Well think about how that translates on dates or in any other social situation. The ability to dig in and really savor food shows that you can dig in and savor life, too. That you know what you want, what you like, and you’re not ashamed of it. Pretty cool, right?
I wish someone had told me that life is basically a series of beautiful meals, that cooking and preparing and sharing food with people is a giant expression of love. I wish I had known that being shy about my desires, cravings, and curiosity meant missing out on incredible experiences, tastes, and memories. All of my best memories of friends, lovers and family are related to shared meals. Eating sandwiches on the cliffs over the ocean, driving miles out of the way just to eat cheese fries, traveling halfway across the world to try a certain kind of bread. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Are you ever shy about eating? Do you ever feel embarrassed about wanting to just dig in? Tell me about it in the comments!