For a long time my relationship with food could be described as businesslike.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
I was a chubby kid who always felt vaguely guilty about eating. Then something happened when I was around 12. I started losing weight and I could eat as much of my grandmother’s fries with ketchup as I wanted. It looked like a blessing. Yes, I slept all day, lost fifteen kilos and my period stopped, but hey, who needs that anyway. When I was 38 kilos for my 166 cms, a mere husk of a girl, when even the XS jeans seemed baggy, we had to face there was a problem.
I was taken to a blood test in the morning. I remember the ring of the bell in the evening, peeping out of the window, seeing a car I didn’t know. It was the nurse from the cabinet. She came in person to tell us that there was so much sugar in my blood that we had to go to the hospital right away.
Now, my mother also has Diabetes Type 1 and I think somewhere deep down we all know that’s what was happening to me. We were just in collective denial. I only start to understand now how my falling ill had traumatised me but mostly my parents. It also lead to a rift in the family with my paternal grandmother cutting us off from her life. We never really discussed these things. Or the fact that I was terrified of dying for a while – because if this illness could slip into my life just like that, more serious things could also ambush me.
They haven’t. Actually I haven’t even really been ill since I got my diabetes and it’s been – gosh – twenty years. So maybe it was a sort of superpower comes with a price deal?
I haven’t really spoken about these things or even thought about them. I think it was the only way for me to push through. Had I stopped to think about it, I would have fallen down like the coyote chasing the roadrunner realising that he has run off a cliff and there is no more ground under his feet.
Once my metabolism was sorted out with the ketoacidodis gone, I started putting on weight again. Not alarmingly, but enough for my diabetologist to make snide comments about me eating in secret. (I wasn’t. For ef’s sake, we were measuring everything I ate with a tiny kitchen scale. I always want to be the good student, the good diabetic, but sometimes you can do your best and it is still not enough.)
But it’s been going better ever since I am treated in France, especially now that I eat based on my own tastes and timetable.
I honestly didn’t plan to talk so much about this but I feel like it might be important to someone, somewhere. (If nothing else to 12-old me.)
I could have titled today’s post D for Diabetes, but I don’t actually write about it in my stories at all – except for the fleeting midgrade novel idea where a diabetic girl and a Moroccan boy observing Ramadan are the only ones escaping from the fairies feast because they can’t eat anything.
All this to say that my relationship with food is changing. I have only been starting to realise that I live in a country where I’m very very well placed to eat good food. (How did I blank out on that for six years, you might ask. Well, I could blame it on the fact that my ex wasn’t an adventurous eater (understatement) but I didn’t really make any efforts either.) I just started to realise that eating can be a pleasure as well as a necessity. (I think I had known this I just forgot.) I still have a long way to go but I try to pay more attention to tastes and their complexities. I mostly do it with tea to be honest, but I’m making progress with food too.
A few weeks ago I talked to my flatmate’s brother who is a cook, I learnt a lot of interesting things from him, but the thing that stayed with me the most is that he got inspired to become a cook by the dinner parties their dad used to make. He saw how food can bring people together by sharing good moments over something delicious.
This thought is also at the core of Macchiatos where the friend group spends most of their time doing board game parties where there is of course always stuff to eat. I wanted these little occasions of conviviality to give the reader warmth and comfort.
Some foody scenes:
It was a steaming cinnamon-apple wonder that exhaled the scent of golden days of Indian summer. I dug in, hoping that it will keep my thoughts at bay, but as the sweet flesh of the fruit touched my tongue, memories came rushing in. We ate an apple pie last Christmas with grandma, laughing and reading the useless jokes left from crackers, wearing lopsided paper crowns. Everything seemed so perfect. Then she fell ill, and it was a fast ride downhill from then on. My life crumbled like pie crust.
I took a second helping of fruit salad and ate excruciatingly slowly, picking out the strawberries and bananas one by one. As long as I had something to poke at, I wouldn’t look so lost.
I closed my eyes as I loaded the fruits in my mouth; they tasted like summer. The music drifted to me as though from far away, and I let my mind wander into the worlds I have created.
“Hey, that’s my dinner!” I said, slapping at his hand.
“Feisty,” Marcel murmured as he opened a bottle of beer at the corner of the cupboard.
“We could cook together!” he said disappearing in the fridge. “Although there is not a lot of food here. Let’s try the freezer. Yes, frozen junk food head quarters. Because you’re a lady, I’ll let you pick first: pizza, fries or what is this… weed?” he opened a bag containing something suspiciously dark green. “Ew, it’s spinach! Please, Blue, I’m begging you, don’t pick the spinach. Let’s forget that it was even there. I have an even better idea!”
His eyes were twinkling like crazy which should have been a warning sign.
“You pick the best thing from the fridge, I pick the best thing from the cupboard and we mix them! Double the bestness!”
“Pizza. But Marcel, in what universe is this a good idea?”
I have no idea how, but he’d already found a horribly kitsch apron somewhere and now wore it proudly.
“Come on, what can go wrong? The combination of two cool things must result in something even cooler!”
I was still not convinced. I could think of a hundred things which were cool separately, but put together they just cancel each other. Coffee and my computer. A thunderstorm and an open-air concert. Killer whales and a swimming pool.
“Stop lazing about and get that pizza ready while I inspect the contents of the cupboard.”
He had a wooden spoon and was directing me with it like a conductor.