Monday, August 29, 2011
Little Debbie and The Ugly Side of My Relationship with Food
Everyone’s journey with food starts somewhere different; mine started on the curb outside my childhood home eating my third pack of Little Debbie Peanut Butter Bars. That’s the first memory I have of someone pointing out my problem with food. I was devouring bar number six (because everyone knows each pack contains two bars-yum, yum) while a neighborhood brawl was taking place.
No, my hometown wasn’t Harlem or inner-city Philadelphia. I grew up in the tame little town of Troy, OH in a very middle-class neighborhood. But it just so happened that evening that newbies on the cul-de-sac, two gutsy and foul-mouthed sisters, started a little war with the rest of the kids on the street. I don’t remember the exact divisions, who sided with who, and whether or not there were any significant casualities (ie, bloody noses or bruised egos), but I do recall standing on the curb watching it with Little Debbie keeping me company all the while. That night, after the street lights turned on and beckoned us home to teeth brushing and bedtime, my mom intercepted me in the kitchen and confronted me with Deb’s half empty box.
“Maile, from now on, one pack. That’s it. Or else I won’t have these around the house anymore.”
I still feel a twinge of guilt when I walk down the snack aisle in the grocery and catch a glimpse of that signature box out of the corner of my eye. It’s probably been a decade since I’ve eaten one of those bars, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t taste nearly as good as it did when I was balancing on the concrete, fingers covered in chocolate, watching the drama of teenage girls unfold before my eyes. Because even back then, at the age 7, it was more than peanut butter covered in chocolate. It was safety. It was security. It was the one thing I could control in the midst of all the things I couldn’t.
Looking back now, I see it clearly. I, like many people, turned to food to ground me when everything around me was shifting and changing. Of course, I was 7, but new neighbors, my mom’s new job, my best friend moving to a neighborhood across town, all those things left me unsettled and the only way I knew how to make myself at ease again, if only for a moment, was to eat, and to eat a lot.
This is something new for my blog: reflections on my relationship with food. Having a food blog, I understand that food is a highly charged subject for a lot of people: we love it and hate it, sometimes both at the same time. From now on I will be devoting Mondays to talking about my journey/struggle with food and body-image. I’m not sure why I’m doing this, but somehow it feels important to my healing… and perhaps to yours. I’d love to have you join the conversation.
What’s your earliest memory of food? Is it tinged with guilt or joy?