Of course everybody is hungry for something. They’re hungry for approval, for peace, for meaning, but sometimes they couldn’t care less for a truffle, whether it be chocolate or dug up by an Italian hog from under an ancient oak.
So, let’s talk about something more important than food. As if there could be such a thing, because perhaps you’ve noticed that where ever you start it always comes back to food. That’s what I realized several years ago when I started to write about it. Several? Well that would be since 1978, which is thirty-some very odd years, I believe, and since then I have often been pretty much able to use food terms to translate life into something understandable.
For instance, I can only remember one time that I was hungry. A friend and I were lost. We had left Michigan in a 1965 Mustang and were wandering all over the east looking for Rosa Parks and Bob Dylan. We’d heard they were out there. What we didn’t know in that pre-instant-information-age is that they’d been here and already left. On a side-trip we got off on some logging roads in French-speaking Quebec. Finally we came upon a gas station out in the middle of nowhere whose attendant did not speak English and apparently had never met anyone who did, just as we, probably, had never met anyone who spoke French. We found things in this alternative universe that looked like milk and Hostess cupcakes, but the milk had cream pushing the cap off and the Hostess cupcakes were... like Hostess, but just a little different. Very primitive, it was. Oh, I was heartsick, and so HUNGRY. Finally we tumbled out of the Canadian forest onto a beautifully paved road into Jackman, Maine and were able to assuage our hunger on familiar homogenized junk food, American – albeit 1960s – style. And that’s what I was starved for – familiarity – that mild Canadian strangeness was terrifically unsettling!
Thanksgiving reminds me of that time. It’s a day when we stuff ourselves with – besides the blameless good local turkey and roasted vegetables – all the starches of potatoes and gravy and dressing, not even to speak of pie. It’s a pure, longed-for carbohydrate binge. It happens every year at this time and we eat the same food that Grandma cooked – starches and sweets!
And then come the recriminations! By now we have got past the talk of what gluttons we were and how we stuffed ourselves, and are looking forward with various strains of trepidation to Christmas cookies and more pies and suet puddings and holiday breads and sweets.
What’s the answer? Let’s try this – just take it
For forty-nine years I have had at least one very large and potent cup of coffee in the morning. A couple of months ago I quit drinking it, just to see what would happen. At first I substituted decaf, but soon realized I didn’t need anything! I had no headaches, no withdrawal symptom of any kind. Well, perhaps there was a kind of emptiness at the centre of my morning ritual; and, as I gradually realized, perhaps a certain lack of energy, a lethargy, in my morning activities. So I relented a bit.
I have beautiful little pottery cups made by Susan Leader from Weston. They’d never been used much because they’re so tiny. Now I often fill one of these miniatures with coffee and cream. I might even have two cups. That serves to ameliorate the tiredness and provide a bit of ceremony, and so, in the end I have not quit drinking coffee so much as I have explored the habit and moderated it, and brought more pleasure to it, too.
So let’s take heed of our feelings that we have overly stuffed ourselves, but let’s not excoriate ourselves for it. We might say, ‘Okay, wayyyy too many carbs, I’ll just cut them out for today.’ And maybe tomorrow we’ll wake up and feel really quite as though we’ll pleasingly exist on salads and cheese and eggs and maybe a hamburger for yet another day, and perhaps find ourselves at the end of a week having lost a few pounds and feeling far less bloated and round-footed. We’ll wake up and smell the coffee, so to speak.
Then of course in come the Christmas cookies and who can blame us if we cannot resist one, or two, unless we have an extreme allergy to gluten, which we may have since the flour we grow now bears very little resemblance to the flour that grew a few years ago. It has been so bioengineered that perhaps our bodies do not recognize it as a food substance anymore. Perhaps our bodies mistake wheat flour as a bacteria, something to be flooded with antibodies. It certainly is true that many people find themselves with a gluten intolerance. One has to wonder why.
In that light it is interesting that the country of Hungary has destroyed one thousand acres of Monsanto genetically modified corn. Other countries are taking these depredations seriously. Peru has likewise passed a ban on genetically modified seeds.
So perhaps you will not abstain from all carbohydrates. But perhaps you will try very seriously not to eat anything made with wheat, barley, or rye. Try that hat on and see how it feels.
I used to think of moderation as the habit of boring people. I don’t think that anymore. I will try to be thoughtful about my hungers and to take it, as Frank Sinatra sang in that era when I was following my hunger along Canadian logging roads, “Nice and easy does it all the time.” I have to tell you, I never did catch up with Dylan, and now I’ve developed this inappropriate curiosity about him. You couldn’t possibly have a gluten intolerance, could you, Mr. Jones?