Eating like a “boid” …
Many women I know (and a few men-truth be told) are perpetually on a diet. Sometimes its even to the point where their diets are on a diet and the kind of thing where one can discern the caloric and fat content of a Starbucks Morning Bun at fifty paces.
Way back in the day — say when I was fourteen and in my grandmother’s kitchen in Far Rockaway — She’d put a plate of food in front of me that could feed half of Queens and then, sitting next to me, patting my hand would say, “Eat, darling, eat. You eat like a boid. Eat, darling eat.”
Now mind you I LOVED her stuffed cabbage, but, we are talking one at a time, not three, not to mention, the candied yams (at any time of year), stuffed derma (never one of my favorites) and a large breast of paprika chicken.
That was just lunch — not a holiday meal where a plate like that was the appetizer to be followed by Matzah Ball Soup (hmmm), gefilte fish (’cause there had to be a fish appetizer course), Turkey (if it was Thanksgiving), what my grandmother called “meat” which was pot roast, carrots and potatoes baked with tomatoes to the point where the meat was in strings, the aforementioned paprika chicken, and assorted vegetables such as beets, potatoes and peas and carrots. And we can’t forget dessert, which was usually cake (macaroons on Passover) and pieces of candy or fruit from the endless supply of bowls filled with the stuff, plus coffee (instant), tea (Lipton), fights over sneaking real milk (not kosher) versus the dried milk substitute, oh and when my Uncle Bunny was over, shots of Slivowitz for the adults at the table.
The period from Thanksgiving through the New Year brings to mind my Grandmother’s bounteous table–or as I like to call it a heart-attack-on-a-plate. And even with her many admonitions about my avian-like behavior, which frankly I never really understood, because I always felt like I ate enough for a week!
Later in my twenties, I made the schlep to Far Rockaway to an older, svelter Grandma who in fighting off her high “sugar” count (aka Type II Diabetes) had dropped from a size 18 to an 8. Still, she’d put a humongous plate of food in front of me, as if I’d been out on the velt chasing lions or something before hopping the A train and with nary a thought to what it might do to my health.
More to the point, her sense of proportion reflected a feast-or-famine mentality honed I suppose from her experiences raising a family during the Depression and her own childhood in places like the Lower East Side and East Harlem where money was always tight.
A lot of years later, however, a portion of that size is an automatic five-pound weight gain (even thinking about it gives me at least a pound or two), not to mention a GERD attack (indigestion plus a throat on fire) and an instant case of narcolepsy.
While counting calories feels incredibly luxurious in a world where many people would still look on one of Grandma’s plates of food as something miraculous, Western types with jingle in their jeans and a ready source of fabulous foods face different challenges. And if you’re a woman of a certain age like me, “water weight” no longer cuts it as an excuse.
What is required is a mindfulness about food that takes into account the body’s carbohydrate, protein, fat and caloric needs, the state of one’s health, and a moment of reflection from time-to-time on where food comes from and how it gets to one’s table. After all, most of us do not go to the back forty to pick our own tomatoes, green beans and sweet peas (except maybe in summer at our country places), nor do we pluck our freshly killed chickens, milk cows or gather our eggs at 5:00 in the morning. What we do is wander through the aisles of a supermarket or Whole Foods or the local deli or maybe even make it to a Farmer’s Market to pick up fresh foods or more than likely prepared meals (frozen, boxed or fresh) or skip it all and eat out or better yet, order in Thai.
What we don’t necessarily do is take the time to reflect on what we are eating and how it got there or how its many nutrients pass through the miracle of the body to be stripped down into constituent parts to fuel our many activities.
Whether its eating too little or eating too much, what we owe ourselves is eating “right” especially as we enter that period where food abounds and whether through many temptations (hmmm, yes, chocolate), lots of holiday gatherings or just plain anxiety, how we eat seems to get laden down with a lot of extra baggage, plus a notch or too on our belts.
Whatever your persuasion during the next several weeks, be aware that issues around eating will definitely be on the table … so think twice and if you do have that yummy extra helping of freshly made potato latkes, what the heck, enjoy, after all, it is only once a year!