Friday, 31 January 2014

The Importance of Food

Living as a college student has apparently caused my stomach to shrink. This was the holiday of not eating everything on my plate. Or rather, the holiday of repeatedly looking like a moron by massively overestimating how much I will want to eat. After Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle's place, I found my cousin, Randal, in the kitchen.

"Uh, can we do something about this so people don't see how wasteful I'm being?" I said, abashedly showing him my plate.

His eyes met mine for a moment as he stifled a chuckle, but he silently worked on my behalf to bury the remnants of my dinner in the garbage bin. It seems that while being a student, I've gotten so used to eating less food, that I hardly know what to do anymore when there's too much food to eat all at once.

The relationship between my appetite and school grew apparent when my sister, Brianna, was dropping me off a few days before the beginning of this semester. We were running errands in the neighbouring town, and she was ready to be off, as it's a long drive home for her.

"What'll you do for lunch?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't know. I'll probably just skip it," I said.

She looked at me with a mixture of shock and horror before promptly driving to the nearest Dairy Queen and buying me lunch.

At first I thought it was just something weird to do with me, and possibly with my Mennonite frugality and reticence to buy groceries, but I quickly realized that's not the whole story. The phenomenon seems to be pretty much dorm-wide. One of my quad mates once had a roommate whose mother refused to let her live in our hall anymore because she went the year eating nothing but ramen noodles and the occasional burnt fish.

Being a student with a kitchen and without a cafeteria meal plan has multiple good points. For example, you spend less on food. You can eat what you want, when you want. You develop your domestic skills. Hungry boys come to visit. But it also comes with a few less positive points, the most major of which is the issue of laziness.

Each day at meal time it's anyone's guess as to which desire will prevail: the desire for sustenance or the desire to not move. Once you've found a suitably comfortable position in which to hang off the couch or bed, you really don't want to get up to do the work of cooking.

At one point, I was doing homework in my friend Jaynette's dorm. Being a good hostess, she offered me something to drink. I asked for some water.

"I was thirsty before I came down," I explained, "but my water bottle was empty, so I gave up."

She laughed at me then, but she functions pretty much the same way. When I eventually left to go back to my own dorm, she started thinking about her own needs. "Maybe I'll have soup for supper," said told me tentatively, "or nothing."

Meanwhile, my quad mate, Cassie, and I were tag-teaming each other to make sure we were consuming appropriate nutrition. On the first day of school, Cassie fed me kimchi, rice and seaweed, which was nice, because I hadn't been planning anything else. On the second day of school, I offered her salad and a fried egg.

"It's not really much of a supper," I apologized.

"Oh! I was planning on not eating, so this is great!" she chirped. As long as we weren't both lazy on the same day, we were ok. Then, we discovered that Cassie's roommate was suffering from the same laziness and also needed to be looked after. Here's how that discovery happened:

Lona: Carla, have you eaten supper?

Me: Yes. I went to Subway.

Lona: (disappointed) Oh.... I'm not going to do that.

Me: It looks like Cassie is making yummy dumplings... but you can't eat them because you're a vegetarian. Are you just not eating tonight?

Lona: I had some soup.

Me: You should go upstairs and tell the boys who keep eating our food that it's their turn to feed you.

Cassie: Yes! They promised us butter chicken.

Lona: I don't want butter chicken.

Me: But they might at least give you the butter.

Cassie: Ask for something else in place of butter chicken.

Lona: (burying her face in her blanket) No! I don't want to!

Eventually she settled on a yogurt cup for supper.

My own roommate is a bit better about eating, since she literally passes out if she's not careful, but the rest of us? Some things just get in the way of a good meal. For example, if in the next two days you have to read four hundred pages and write thirty yourself, plus attend classes and do general life, something has to give. The logic goes like this: there's no due date for supper. It's easier to read textbooks hungry than it is to read them sleepy. And giving up personal hygiene is just poor etiquette when you live in close quarters. Result: food gets a rain-check.

Then, there's also the issue of plain, dumb forgetfulness. You would assume that grown women don't need a mother to remind them to eat, and to be honest, I never used to understand, either, how people could get so involved in their work that they forget to eat. It is crucial to life, after all.

Last semester, I had a gap between two classes that book-ended lunchtime. Occasionally, as I was working away on homework during that time, I was visited by a vague sense that I was forgetting something. Inevitably I put it down to my just not being productive enough and then carried on.

I do not have an eating disorder, I promise. Neither do my quadmates. The only issue we have is that we're college students. Also, now that we've assigned each other weekly cooking duties, the situation has improved somewhat. We always eat eventually, you have my assurance. Besides, when we finally get hungry enough to do something about it, there's always the 24-hour McDonald's just the next town over.

"Food is an important part of a balanced diet." Fran Lebowitz


Brianna said...

I love Subway... best bang for your buck on campus. I love when they have the $5 footlongs, and right now they have $3 6-inch turkey breast subs. I just watched Subway we be the subject of Undercover Boss too by the way!

It surprised me when I initially discovered that I eat waaay more when I'm exercising my brain than exercising my body. Unfortunately I'm lazy when it comes to packing lunches, and I end up spending a lot of money on food at school. I also spend a lot of money meeting friends for coffees and lunches when I'm not too hungry.

JustIn credible said...

Engineers have a saying that you either need to give up normal sleeping or having a social life. I've seen most of my class-mates choose one but I've never seen someone pick giving up food. That would be awful.

Art said...

This reminds me of a story someone told me. They had bought a dog but it was always hungry and eating. They decided to train it to eat less and so everyday they would feed it just a bit less than the day before. Unfortunately, just as they had it trained to eat no food, it died.

I hope you are not turning into a Breatharian!

Carolynn said...

Did you get my card with the $20 in it for FOOD? Love Auntie Carolynn

Sandra Heinrichs said...

Has "The Wanderer" wandered into oblivion???