A few months ago, I was traveling for work when a colleague told me I was ‘very high maintenance, food-wise’. At first, I was all indignant. But then I realized that was actually a pretty astute observation. Because despite being pretty low maintenance in other areas, I am really particular about food. I probably have more vehement reactions to certain foods than even the pickiest kid. The issue is partly dietary, partly just being an asshole about it, and partly because I have been watching way too many food documentaries.
I have been off wheat for five years, which I had to do because I was having terrible chronic sinus issues that went away when I cut it out of my diet. Of course, this means that most cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, pizzas, breads, and pastas are off limits. So, you can imagine that this significantly reduces the variety of foods I can eat, just on an everyday basis. And it’s not nearly as big a deal these days as it used to be. Five years ago, I’d tell people I couldn’t eat gluten, and they’d be like, ‘what’s that’? Then I’d say, ‘gluten, you know, like in wheat’. And they’d be like ‘WHAT? You can’t eat MEAT’? And then I’d be like “No, wheat. WHEAT. Not MEAT’. Lots of people still think I have a meat allergy. But today, there are lots of gluten-free alternatives out there, even though you might have to take out a bank loan to afford them. Right now, I am eating a sandwich made from a loaf of bread that cost seven bloody dollars. SEVEN! And it’s not even like a regular sized loaf of Wonder Bread even, it’s like a mini half-loaf.
So, the gluten thing is pretty reasonable since I can’t help it. But, you’d think that since I already have to cut out an awful lot of foods, that I might be more open-minded about incorporating other food items into my diet, but that’s where the problem comes in. I hate a lot of foods. Like, a lot. These are foods that I am fundamentally opposed to, and eating them is simply not physically possible. Let’s start from the beginning.
When I was six months old, my mom started giving me solid foods, just like you are supposed to do. She says that one of the first ‘real’ foods she gave me was scrambled eggs, which I promptly vomited up all over my high chair. So, I feel like my aversion to eggs is also out of my control. Eggs have to be one of the most revolting foods on this planet. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration; I’ve been to Asia and there’s definitely worse. But everyone is all ‘eggs are the perfect food! So good for you’! And I’m like, yeah but what if eating a chicken embryo just isn’t your thing? What if the thought of that wiggling, gelatinous, sliming ooze in your mouth makes you gag? What if the smell of eggs cooking turns your stomach over? There’s a reason there is a type of fart named for eggs. They smell atrocious. And don’t even get me started on those stories about people finding beaks and feathers and shit in the yokes.
Next, we have fish and seafood. Another disgusting food category. Anything that lives/grows in the water is a problem for me, actually. But, I will concede that fish can be good for your health. All those fatty acids. I did try, I really did try to eat fish and seafood, but there is something about the taste and smell that once again, makes my stomach turn. But with fish and seafood, there is also a terrible texture problem. Lobster and crab are squishy, sushi is slimy, salmon has all those annoying teeny tiny bones, and octopus and squid are too rubbery.
And that fishy taste! It never gets out of my mouth. Last year at my husband’s Christmas party, they had several types of fish in the buffet, which I obviously avoided. My husband usually takes these opportunities to eat fish since he is banned from cooking it in the house. He had cut a piece of fish with his knife and then cut me off a slice of a potato. Before I even put that potato bite in my mouth, I started to gag. It was like that small essence of fishiness had contaminated the potato to such a degree that I considered spitting it back out onto my plate. But then I realized that if I did that, my husband’s colleagues might think I was a weirdo.
Next, there is meat on bones. Unlike my other food aversions, I actually love the taste of meat on bones. Come on! Ribs, and chicken wings, and pork chops…that shit is delicious! But not delicious enough to get me to eat them. Meat on bones is gross, because not only are there bones incorporated into the meat, but there are always icky things associated with the bones, like blood vessels, tendons, and fat. Plus, these meat on bones foods are impossible to eat without making a mess all over your face and hands, and you have to bite through the meat skin, and that just gives me anxiety. Just throw me a boneless, skinless chicken breast and I’ll be fine.
This is my worst nightmare. And I’m
not talking about the giant knife.
In addition to eggs, seafood, and meat on bones, there are a myriad of smaller aversions to things like tofu (wiggly in my mouth), bitter leafy vegetables (fuck you, arugula), organ meats (including intestinal scrapings), gravy (there’s something in the gravy!!), lychee nuts (taste yummy but are too eyeball-like for comfort), anything with a firm outside and a squishy inside (certain fruits a bit past their prime), slimy meats (duck and goose), and probably about 8,000 other things.
Now, you must be thinking, ‘what the fuck does this girl even eat’? And I assure you there are still many options out there even though I have recently eliminated dairy from my diet as well, also for health reasons. Because, as I have mentioned repeatedly in this blog, I’ve been through quite a terrible period of stress in recent years. When I was still working my fancy corporate job, I would pack a lunch almost every day. And a good lunch too, with fruit and vegetables, soups, and healthy grains. The problem was that the more stress I was under, the harder it became to eat. Some people are stress eaters; I am a stress starver. I’d take a few bites of something and feel so nauseous, I’d have to stop eating. And when I wasn’t eating properly, I would get headaches (or the headache I already had would get worse). Then, to just make it through the workday, I’d be popping codeine painkillers like candy. Delicious, delicious candy. But, during the worst of it, I dropped 15-20 pounds over a period of about four months. Finally, after a last-straw incident at work, I just left and never went back.
However, despite leaving the job, the stress continued as the situation was (and is) ongoing, so my poor eating continued as well. I found that I could only stomach a few ‘comfort’ foods, so I ate what I could tolerate and relied on these comfort foods for the bulk of my caloric intake. These ‘foods’ were things like nachos, DQ ice cream sundaes, Nutella on rice cakes, and a whole host of other weird things. I can’t explain why my brain and stomach were not offended by these foods when I have issues with so many others, but there it is. I ate what I could, when I could, and hoped my body wouldn’t punish me too much.
Well, the day of reckoning is here now. While my stress levels are still higher than they ought to be, over the past year or so I have been able to resume eating ‘normally’. But I still felt like a bag of crap. And why wouldn’t I? How the fuck was I able to get any nutrition at all during this bad eating phase? It’s not like there are any vitamins in nachos, and even though they market Nutella as a health food, I will reluctantly admit that it’s not a true nut butter and is filled with sugar. I am only just realizing now that I’ve severely depleted my nutrient reserves and am running on fumes.
Then, to make matters even more complicated, I have been watching an absurd number of food documentaries lately. Now, in addition to avoiding eggs, seafood, meat on bones, wiggly, slimy, squishy or oozy foods, I now also have to worry about high fructose corn syrup, flavour enhancers, Genetically Modified Organisms, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, the horrible treatment of livestock animals, preservatives, dyes, ammonia baths, petrochemicals, carcinogens, and a whole bevy of other stuff. So, is ignorance bliss then? Is it better to not be aware of all these issues within our food chain and just eat without care? Personally, the information that I have picked up through watching these documentaries, researching how foods are produced, and learning about the effects that some of these food additives have on our bodies has encouraged me to make some changes to my food mindset.
And so now I am working on replenishing my nutrients while avoiding the junk that is in so many of our foods these days. I’m not quite ready to go fully vegetarian right now, but I am trying to make more meatless meals and make wiser choices based on where the meat is coming from. And I was struggling to figure out the best way to get cheap, fresh, locally-grown produce too. But then I had a major revelation. DUH. I CAN GROW MY OWN FOOD.
Back in the olden days, everybody grew their own produce! My own grandfather had an incredible veggie garden in his back yard, and I used to think that fresh-picked carrots were tastier than any candy. I’ve already started a bunch of veggies indoors and I plan to just keep adding varieties until there isn’t any space in my garden. My gardening skills to date have been lackluster, as I usually kill everything because I forget to water. However, I am very committed to this project and plan to employ some child labour in the form of my niece to help with weeding and composting. So far, my indoor plants are doing well, despite the fact that I forgot to label my first seedlings and now have no idea what the fuck is growing in those pots.
So, happy gardening to me (except for cabbage (smells weird), radishes (does anyone actually eat radishes?), okra (slimy), and Brussels sprouts (they look like little brains)).