by Lisa

Theme: plain food.  I’ve never tried this one before, but I’m ready for a challenge.

Baked chicken, steamed broccoli, maybe a baked sweet potato? I once listened to a program on NPR about a woman who was served exactly the same meal for supper every night of her life, until she went to college and had to eat in the cafeteria.  She didn’t know that not everyone ate baked chicken, steamed broccoli, and a baked potato every single night, until she crowed to her new classmates about the fabulous, exotic food offered by her midwestern college’s kitchen.  It had never occurred to her that her mother served one meal and only one meal and her mom must have been a little weird.

I ate Oscar Mayer bologna and Kraft singles on white bread with Miracle Whip, corn curls, canned peaches, Oreos, and an RC cola for lunch every day of my sophomore year of high school, unless salisbury steak or chicken fried steak or roast turkey was on the lineup.  Every day. Gram accommodated my lunch request without question.  The winter before, my house had burned down, so we were all a little weird.  Bologna, no crust, fixed something in me that missed the sameness of my old house.

It worked, and Papa always took the same lunch to work every day, anyway.  My lunch was devoid of much nutrition but filled other needs. As for Papa, the only thing that changed for him was the swap of tongue for ham when Gram had the stomach to do the tedious, gut-wrenching process of cooking a fresh tongue.  I peeled and she dug out “roots” with a very sharp knife.  Cow tongues are huge, and messy, and really should have stayed in those cow’s heads.  She was so relieved when cheap tongue became chi chi and the price went up at the butcher shop.  After that, ham all the way.

Ham, to me, will always be an enormous thing with a bone that benefits from being baked and glazed with mustard and brown sugar, much soaking required before baking. The square stuff from the deli isn’t ham.  It’s just the pig leg version of head cheese, which has its merits when one can overlook the bits of ear and snoot.

No one has ever told me what I can and cannot eat.  In this way, food remains in a happy place in my head.  I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and I love to feed people I love.  However, besides having a healthy awareness of my physical need for certain foods, I’m very attuned to the emotional meaning of something like properly prepared ham, or bologna with no crust.  I pushed vegetables on my kids for years before I realized that they wouldn’t die without cauliflower, and none of them may ever enjoy a beet the way I enjoy a beet.  They liked my chili mac, at least.  My smallest person must only taste a bit of anything on her plate and stop when she claims fullness, whether there’s suddenly room for ice cream five minutes after supper or not.  It’s not my place to tell her what her body and soul need.

I sometimes slip out of range of the signals from my own body and soul. These last few weeks of being me did some damage which I’m actively undoing.  Last night, I slept all night for the first time in a month.  Tonight, I intend to do the same.  A bowl of Breyer’s chocolate ice cream with Ovaltine sprinkled on top would help, but I’ll shop for that tomorrow or the next day.

Five rather long posts are hanging out together in my list of drafts.  This week and last have called for crazy mad output of words, but not one of those words makes for appropriate blog content.  Hitting that “publish” button would do more harm than good.  I now have those words, and I’ll commit them to paper where they belong, and delete them from this website, and look at them in ten years and feel relief that I’m over all of that.

Now, it’s time to talk about the relief that comes from knowing I’ve weathered another storm without losing my mind. I forgot my mommy’s birthday in my bewildered fog, but it’s lifting. I’ve gained some knowledge, a little power, and a few more coping skills that don’t make me feel like coping is a trial. Still here, just me after all, and I’m okay with myself.  Still properly left of center, still planning obsessively for summer trips and next week’s supper menus.  Some things endure through the worst of times and make them less bad.

Next time, I’ll tell you about the camping that’s happening soon.  And what I’ll be cooking, of course.