My relationship with takeout food
You see, here’s what you don’t think about when you think about people who look like they eat, like myself: you don’t think about what they feel about eating, and you mostly focus on the fact that they eat because they feel like it. That’s a gross reduction.
First of all, I am ‘fat by choice, awesome by default’ [patent pending] and after 16, all my life I have had weight issues. From an adolescent kid who had to have her leggings taken in an inch because her legs were too thin for leggings (!), I have often been the girl/young lady/woman who has had to ask politely for a bigger size (slightly bigger than that, please?) and walk out in shame/anger/frustration/regret of having tried a store in the first place. I regret nothing. I’m OK, I look good when I want to, I feel good most days, and I can kick many asses in succession not just verbally but otherwise, too, try me. I also don’t deal with people who constantly talk about weight and bring up cooking/eating healthy as a go-to topic.
I have never liked such conversations because they always seem to go in the direction where no one will come out feeling good or better about themselves or their choices. I also don’t associate with people who assume that because I’m a big girl, I cannot do a bunch of things and that every decision I make has to do with my weight. If I told the average ‘judger’ how full my day is with activities and joy, if I made them understand how little I have to ‘work’ in order to afford my lifestyle, if I tried to explain all the elements that I have carefully gathered around me that keep me safe, loved, secure, rested and most of all, sated, they would go seek therapy realizing just how empty their life really is. So, I spare them but I can’t say the same for the other side. Oh, well.
So, why am I talking about food today? Because this is what it is like in my head when I make my food choices and I think it’s OK now to articulate them into a more coheseive form and let it out into the world. One of those things that once you say it they become real. I’m not hoping for change, but maybe just a consciousness will arise once I hit send and customarily read it right after, which will alter my perception of ‘takeout and me’ for a slightly better outcome.
The thing is, every one of my takeout orders has an emotion attached to it. Like, just now. Context: the summer heat has hit 45 and above in degree celsius here and we are beyond fried. Usually, this time every year, I lose my appetite. It’s curious and expected, and at my age I have learned how to announce it with considerable firmness in my voice when I tell my mom or my cook ‘main nahi khaungi, bhai, mere liye nahi banana hai kuch bhi’. It used to fall on deaf or old-fashioned-ly stubborn ears a decade ago but there have been truces and mutual agreements reached and we’re OK now. Anyway, since yesterday, it’s been quite bad and I have been guzzling shakes, water, lemonade, cold water, ice, more shakes, beer, melons, wildberries, mulberries, chilled water and some more water. I’m crossing 8–9 litres a day, and I wish I were exaggerating. Last evening, though, my new sister was making dinner and texted me to come eat it while it was hot and while that was the exact wrong thing to say to me, I still went out and ate a little because I love her and I suddenly felt hungry. This last part also had something to do with some sort of magic that is specific to my family, and especially my sibling and I because ever since I can remember, amma and now mummy have used the tactic of getting the other sibling to watch while the first sibling eats, and somehow evoking hunger in the former. And, you guys, it works. All I had to do was to bring a roti to my brother and man, one look at the chomper and his dish full of food and I was like, ‘I gotta get me summa that’. But other than that slip, I haven’t eaten anything and drunken plenty.
Add to that the fact that I had to go to three separate locations for various errands today, including a long stroll at the shelter which is wonderful but open, and I was hollowed out and desiccated by the time I got home. I fell asleep watching Shaun of the Dead and woke up in a pool of my sweat because the bleeping power went off at THE WORST HOUR (if you don’t know what that is, I can’t help you). So, my mom kept worrying (she is retired and I am almost 35 but this makes no difference in how much she runs after me and this is a privilege on top of the list of joys I mentioned earlier :D) and asking me to eat something, so after a looong think, and a quick, rather bloody game of Ludo, I settled for a 6" sub, a small wrap (the safety net between two subs, and one sub and a less-than-full dinner stomach), some chips and water. They took a long time to deliver, and because my sub was to be toasted with cheese, well, you can imagine. The toasted-ness had given up and the cheese was missing (a twist!). Also, they called me about 20 minutes in, telling me to order something else because they were out of wraps. I asked them to send me oatmeal cookies instead and while it’s not my best decision, in my defense, Ritu (new sister, technically sister-in-law, very cool girl to have around and just overall a chill Bill) was coming up behind me with her red pawn and mummy had just opened all of her pawns and I panicked! (Ludo, in case you forgot).
Now, the food arrived about 20 more minutes after, and the minute I opened the paper bag up to sneak a peak, I knew that the sandwich was cold, and that my chips were the wrong ones. Like, seriously, I don’t even trust people who eat plain salted chips. I don’t know what y’all are up to, but I ain’t fallin’ for it. And I sat down to half-eat, half-text to Swiggy to complain and claim refund and half-watch Anne Hathaway charm Stephen Colbert into a blushing grown TV presenter slash wonderful human being, and I started thinking about how I feel. Not about feeling full, or disappointed because these are all on the surface, and all transitory. No, I thought about how the whole hour of this experience felt for me. And today, it was about a little bit of fear (because my migraine was threatening to unfold on my right temple), some guilt because I ordered chicken today (because on the path to becoming fully vegetarian, I have some ways to go on the reducetarianism and that’s how it will be) and a quarter of an ounce of comfort because I know which part of the bite will taste like what on which part of my tongue and which combination of the sandwich and the chip would be best.
So, when I saw that the order was wrong, the first thing I felt was the taste going from my mouth. It completely abandoned me, leaving me lonely with my cold food, wondering how to salvage what was in the bag and turn it into an emotion I could swallow with water. What you have to now understand is, that when I order takeout, I have already tasted all the food in my mouth when I order it. I take gulps of the shakes and stir my smoothies and fish out all the fruity bits before glugging it whole, and I rearrange my burger all the way and hold it upside down (that’s the best way to keep a burger integrated while you eat, btw) and I scrunch into the pink vinegar-soaked baby onions by the handful, and all of this before I hit PAY NOW on my screen. The actual food is the confirmation of my assessment. It is the certificate to my culinary course. It is the satisfaction to my delayed gratification. And thus, it must be what I know it to be else I cannot taste it, and if I can’t taste it, I don’t eat it.
The days when I order my staple shahi paneer, butter tandoori rotis, I feel decent and good, because while that is not healthy food, it is very far down the ladder of unhealthy foods. Around PMS it happens a lot, and I let it, because it is my genuine comfort food ever since I started aiming for vegetarianism. When I order a New York style pizza with broccoli, basil and mushrooms, I feel great, and rewarded, because Instapizza has not let me down yet. I also, surprisingly, don’t feel like a glut even though I eat the entire pie. Because I can and I want to. (Two great reasons that have got me through a lot of choices). There are days when I just order an eclair, a smoothie and a slice of blueberry cheesecake and while this could easily fit in the parenthetical category above, it also verily falls under the ‘today feels like a ‘just desserts’ day and I might just fill up on these. Of course, then Ritu or my brother open the door to the delivery and see the over-familiar Theo’s box and get all suspicious and curious and hungry, basically, hungry and we end up forking through the cheesecake right there on the counter and that’s a different and wonderful kind of satisfaction of its own league. Then, there are those days when I go very wrong. I’d get, like, an aglio olio pasta from a new joint that clearly stole its pics from Getty and be very irritated by the disingenuousness of the promoters on Swiggy and the lack of skill that got the simple act of cooking al dente pasta in olive oil and smoked peppers for 7 minutes wrong. And no, you don’t put green vegetables in that, for the record, and the clue is right in the title of the dish! Lately, there has been a pleasant addition to my wheelhouse on takeout — a single roll with soy chuncks, onions and some sauce. Inexpensive, just right for one person and great with any beverage.
To wrap up (heh, guess I’m still 17, punning my way through blogposts), when I order takeout, I am sending out an emotional signal and it needs to ricochet back to me the same way. When the food arrives, I need it to be the food from my imagination, which was in turn set by the same food at a different time, and so on… It sends me down a spiral of doubt, sadness and mostly IBS-fueled trips to the loo, from which then I have to recover by eating safe, boring food. And so, I would like to go tell Swiggy, that my relationship with their app isn’t just about a mercenary call for meals, but a gamble and a mortgage, and when they take care of me and my complaints the way a teacher would listen to a student’s appeal to let them submit a late assignment because they had a rough evening due to their ex getting in touch. Care. It’s good.