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Why Food?

It's a story I'm fond of telling. My earliest memories involve eating. I remember living with my older brother in our aunt and uncle's home and sneaking oranges and bananas after midnight when the house was silent. Peels and rinds littered the floor each morning much to their disdain.

I remember the joy of pouring my very own bowl of cereal. The heavy plastic gallon of milk too much for my small arm, and the horror of milk flowing over the bowl and across the counter, speckled with Lucky Charms.

Food had an instant hold over me. As I grew older, the need to feed caused me to do embarrassing things. At friends' homes during sleepovers, I would often raid their fridges and cabinets for morsels and tasty tidbits I didn't have at my own home. The rare times I was caught by irritated parents usually ended in an early morning return to my house and an end to further invitations.

Neighbors knew me as the girl who would tear up their flower gardens and lawns to make sidewalk stew with petals and patches of green grass, stirred lovingly with a stick ladle. When I wasn't imaginary cooking, I was asking for food from perfect strangers.

My family and I laugh about it, but it also reminds me of the sad parts; things we try not to remember because they hurt.

As an infant I wasn't regularly fed or cared for by my own mother, and that lack of consistency in nourishment may have been the reason I felt such a strong pull to devour food whenever it was near.

I have many memories where food and my body were used as agents of control. I grew up knowing that I was overweight; knowing that I should be ashamed of myself for wanting to eat. Food was bad if I wanted it, and I was fat when I ate. The compulsion to eat and the derogatory message I was sent regarding food resulted in several painful years with an eating disorder.

I used food to set boundaries for myself. I started identifying eating with behaviors like "good" and "bad." Eating was gluttonous, denial was power. In transforming from an ample eater to a binging purger, I still lived a life that revolved around food.

It wasn't until I reached my mid twenties that I slowly shed the weight of shameful eating and gained the bulk of acceptance. I spent one long morning staring at my bare stomach in the mirror, a part of my body that I'd hated for a long time, and realizing how beautiful it must truly be since it was the vessel that nurtured my children and carried them into this world.

I didn't stop obsessing about food. I still get a junkie's high when I eat a great meal. But I am no longer ashamed of that love. I found that I love to cook and feed others just as much as I enjoy eating and discovering new flavors. I feel like an artist when I am slicing, dicing, sauteing and braising. I am a consumer and I am a creator.

Here I am, bare sentenced and vulnerable, exposing the raw, dirty bits of my desire to share my passion for food. And I am the happiest I have ever been. To that I say - let's eat.

Bryanne Salazar is a mother of two teenage boys, the wife of an active duty United States Marine and a full time student at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. She enjoys writing about food and culture, as much as she likes eating.


Stacey said...

Excellent post...your honesty is refreshing and such an inspiration.

Bryanne Salazar said...

Being honest is both the hardest and most rewarding thing when writing. Maybe it's easier because I can hide behind the screen. Who knows? My gratification comes when someone understands what I am trying to communicate. Thank you a million times over for reading my blog - I sincerely appreciate it! :-D

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