The next stage in my autobiography of eating is “leaving home.” Growing up, I had learned how to use a recipe responsibly, but it was easier just to follow the instructions on the back of a box or sauce package. I only needed this knowledge intermittently anyway. I didn’t think too seriously about eating; it was just something I had to do. I was much more concerned with talking, thinking, having brilliant epiphanies, writing poems, etc.
The first few years away from home I spent mostly in the cafeteria at Cedarville, affectionately known as Chuck’s. Of course, like any college freshman who hadn’t been allowed ice cream, soda, or Lucky Charms, I had them all frequently. Over time I developed my habits: Pizza, pizza sandwiches, maybe salad, or an odd Belgian waffle. Always a glass of water and a glass of Sprite mixed with Cranberry juice. (I did go through a soy milk phase, I don’t remember why). If we didn’t eat very nutritiously, the one think we did very well at Chuck’s was eat together. I always ate with friends, and especially at lunch, we tended to linger talking and sipping coffee and going back for ice cream until they kicked us out. I laughed a lot and gossiped a lot and I have fond memories in that place.
These first years of college I began to suffer from headaches. I didn’t think of myself as sick at all. Just every once in a while I got a headache, tried to sleep it off, and felt better. After a while they started to get worse and cause me nausea. But I still didn’t think about it too much.
It was study abroad that really started to make me think a new way about eating. In England, I had to cook for myself. I didn’t eat fancy, but I did buy fresh veggies regularly and this yummy probiotic drink called Yakult. I loved the freedom of stopping in the Sainsbury’s Local and picking up a few things for the week. I loved popping in cafes and restaurants for a pecan Danish or a bacon-brie-and-cranberry baguette. I started to realize just how bad some American foods are. The average supermarket bread in England was a million times better than American bread and dead cheap. The cheeses available were AMAZING (Hello, Cheddar is actually a place! And its not the only one where they make cheese.). Some of my best memories of Oxford are of cooking, eating, drinking tea and telling stories with my housemates in our little kitchen.
Spain changed everything. I lived with a family who ate fairly traditional Spanish food: coffee and toast for breakfast (fresh buns bought daily); a big afternoon meal at 2 with a salad (always the same: iceburg lettuce, tomatoes, half a can of corn, onion, sea salt, vinegar and oil), a freshly warmed baguette, and usually some variety of soup or beans or maybe an artichoke in broth, finished with green olives (with the pit!) and Laughing Cow type cheese, then an orange, onto the peel of which la Señora would tap the ashes for her after dinner smoke, filling the room with this wonderful sweet burning smell; and a small, late, cold dinner. I absolutely adore Spanish food. The only headaches I got in Spain were on Sundays when la Señora didn’t make coffee… caffeine withdrawl.
Then I returned to the US. Where my parents had moved from the city to a small town and did most of their shopping at Super Wal-Mart.
P.S. Two notes: 1) my word count has swelled to 600 words. This feels like a more natural cut off for me. 2) I want to apologize if in my first food post, I belittled anyone who writes a recipe blog. I should have said that my expertise is theology (and autobiography, since I haven’t gotten to much theology yet—I promise, they’re related) so I will stick to that. I’m still a novice about food, but I’m learning.