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My Food Journal: Day One
Is this mindfulness or neurosis? Is there a difference?
I’m about to eat… Oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon
Because… I’ve been reading about mindfulness. Like everyone else. Or, at least, like everyone on this same woo-woo journey of self-discovery and improvement.
I used to laugh at all of this bullshit. I still laugh, but now I’m laughing at myself, while I devour Brené Brown books and articles from women’s health magazines about ‘food journaling for mindfulness.’ Laughing at yourself is very healthy, supposedly. It’s probably the healthiest thing I do.
I took a quiz in the magazine last night (that’s where these things always start) and became ashamed of the complete lack of attention I pay to what I’m eating. Lately, I tend to eat while leaning against the kitchen counter, my thumb scrolling down the phone in my hand. Or else I drop forkfuls of food on my computer keyboard because I can’t be bothered to sit down at a real table. I can’t ever remember what I have in the kitchen. Three bananas died of neglect this week on the counter. And in the fridge? Right now, I know, there’s some leftover pizza from yesterday. But only because I looked a minute ago.
So this morning I’m showing off for my new ‘food journal’. I didn’t want to start off like a hedonist, making excuses for whatever pastry I had carried home from the bakery. I want to look like the kind of person who eats ‘mindfully’—those people eat oatmeal, right?
A food journal can’t hurt. I just need to be more aware of what I’m eating and why I’m eating it, and then I’ll know whether I’m eating junk out of boredom or stress or malaise.
Anyway, I chose not to pick up a croissant at the bakery on my walk (they were laid out in rows, freshly baked, on the tray in the window. There’s something so perverse and French about ripping one apart and shoving the end in my mouth while I’m walking). Instead, I came home and boiled water for oatmeal. And that is what I’m about to eat. So ha, food journal. +10 for me.
I’m about to eat… (Drink?) a glass of orange juice
Because… My throat felt weird for a second. And immediately I thought, oh god, this is it. I must have caught Covid again. It’s kind of dry and prickly. Maybe it was the oatmeal? Does oatmeal dry out your throat? Or it could be one of the hundred other sicknesses in the air right now—what does RSV feel like?
Maybe there’s a light tinge of a sinus headache too. And my legs feel tired (I went jogging yesterday. And I keep accidentally taking these long walks—the walks aren’t accidental, but they do get accidentally long). And I’m maybe too mindful right now about my mild achiness and about the off feeling in my throat that could possibly be a sinus thing coming on.
Is this mindfulness or neurosis? Is there a difference? I don’t think the magazine article covered this question.
I’m about to eat… Hummus with a couple water crackers
Because… I made a little promise to God and the universe while I was waiting for the result on the Covid test. If the scary little T line didn’t show up, I would be so much better about everything—I’d remember to wear my mask in the stores and I’d wash my hands each time I came inside. I would drink tons of water and eat more ‘mindfully’ (yes, mindfully) in order to build up my immune system. So I’m having hummus. I do like hummus. And I’m roasting some broccoli to eat later.
I’m about to eat… Pizza
Because…The thing is, I never said I wasn’t going to eat the leftover pizza. It’s like the gun you introduce in the first act of the story. As soon as I saw the pizza in the refrigerator, this moment became inevitable. And as I write that, I’m realizing the ridiculousness of defending myself against the judgment of my own food journal.
It’s funny, though, how a journal always feels more like a letter to someone else. Someone who may or may not sign on to our self-delusions. When I was in middle school, I addressed my diary to Bernadette Peters. I had watched a VHS tape of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George about a million times and all I wanted in the world was to be her best friend. I would begin each entry, “Dear Bernadette…” and, because she’s a real human and because I’m not rude, I would often take a moment mid-stream-of-consciousness to ask her how SHE was doing and to ask whether SHE had enjoyed her holiday break. Those rehearsal schedules must be exhausting, Bernadette.
Maybe I’ll eat some broccoli with the pizza.
I’m about to eat… A bowl of bouillabaisse
Because… Granted, $18 for a quart of soup from the grocery store doesn’t sound like a great deal. But when it’s bouillabaisse (which somehow I can spell off the top of my head, while “weird” still trips me up each time) and it’s full of monkfish and swordfish and scallops and mussels from the only grocery store on the coast that’s worth its weight in sublime seafood, then $18 is a gobsmackingly good price. A quart equals three smallish bowls, and I have another bowl to go. That’s a hell of a deal.
I never order bouillabaisse in restaurants, where it tends to cost at least $25 for a bowl. You might as well order a steak, if you’re going to be so profligate with your money. Or something completely insane, like Crab Louis.
I’m about to eat… Well, I was going to eat a piece of toast. But I don’t know.
Because… Am I crazy, or is this journal a gateway drug to an eating disorder? I’m looking back on the day’s food so far like, hmm, that looks like a lot. The page would look so much cleaner and prettier if I just ate the oatmeal and, like, a salad. Then I could record my weight each morning in one corner, and…
Jesus, I could really take myself for a ride with this thing.
Not that I’ve ever managed to commit to an eating disorder, but it’s like cocaine or wearing lingerie as a top. Every girl has to try it out once. I had a brief insanity when I was thirteen that involved sharing a plate of french fries and a carefully divided Little Debbie Zebra Cake with two of my best friends at the school lunch every day, then topping off the meal with a speedy run to the bathroom.
What I learned from my very brief stint with bulimia:
Nobody’s looking at how skinny you are. They’re looking at all the pinprick exploded blood vessels all over your face.
God has yet to create a strong-enough breath mint.
I neglected to mention any of it to Bernadette Peters, of course. Somehow I knew she would have thought less of me.
I’m about to eat… (Okay, I’m halfway through) a cup of lemon tea and a couple slices of cheese.
Because… “Do you have Pecorino Ginepro?” I asked the cheese man over the phone last week.
The “Ginepro” part means Juniper, from the little bitter blue berries of the juniper tree. The cheese is soaked in juniper berries and balsamic vinegar before the aging process. I had been told to check out this cheese and, I can promise you, the little berries make a difference.
“Zhe-NAY-pro,” said the cheese man, correcting my pronunciation. Was he Italian before that moment?
“Zhe-NAY-pro” I repeated. (I watched a lot of Mr Rogers as a kid. I’ll repeat after anyone.)
“Very good,” he replied warmly. “It’s twenty dollars a pound.”
I swallowed, then calculated that a one-person sliver was probably less than a quarter of a pound.
“You can come in today?” He asked.
I bought some fig jam too, which is never a mistake in a cheese store.
The tea, though… I was staring into the medicine cabinet a few minutes ago. That was when I decided I needed tea. I was thinking of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, and somehow I ended up with sunscreen on my hands.
“The taking of a toast and tea” is what I was thinking. A phrase I always liked, for no good reason. I like toast and I like tea, and I like the rhythm and tongue-to-toothiness of saying it. I have mixed feelings about the poem. It’s so beautiful, but it brings with it a whole suite of memories involving the man who taught it to me. He was one of my professors in college. As I was thinking about the poem—“a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas”—my hands wandered, absent instruction, into the medicine cabinet and they took down the sunscreen instead of my hand cream. I had a thick dollop of the stuff on my hands before I noticed.
I was wondering, as I washed the SPF off into the sink, whether he’s out there somewhere right now. I imagine him still standing on the brown carpet in his overcoat, looking as self-satisfied as ever. Still asking, “Do I dare to eat a peach?” at so clearly the wrong moment.
I’m about to eat… one of those little Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. That’s all.
Because… Honestly, if you’ve tried them, you already know.
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