Saturday, December 26, 2009

What Do You Eat When You're Alone?..... Think About It....

Okay, maybe the "limbo days", those days stuck in between Xmas and New Years give high emotional times for some or deep depression for others, got me in a meditative state, plus I'm off from work and can take the time to sit here and think; but I just came back to one of my forays in the cement jungle after having some coffees (who can have just one after all?) and being "under the influence" of caffeine.... plus talking to my very food challenged friends (6 truly wacked out adults) it seems sex has no bearing on this theme at all as we are all of the "dysfunctional" type when it comes to this subject. The only dividing factor are "witnesses"...... we all behave differently if there are "other eyes" around us which tends to make us "conform"... (Ugh, what a nasty word!....).

Anyhoo, seems most of us that find ourselves alone in the house either by design or accident (I wouldn't know what that's like and haven't for over 30 years, except for a time when I worked as a Personal Chef for a couple of years in Chicago that is.... and it was sheer luxury) and it's meal time. I had a Yoga teacher tell me that indigenous sages of Peru predicted long ago that one of the signs that the world had entered a period of darkness would be that people would eat alone. To them then, that seemed unfathomable. For us now, it seems perfectly normal. What does that tell you about the modern American experience, eh? I say pretty scary.....

It's long been known that there is a lot more loneliness than most people think. Dating is a nightmare and so many people stay in relationships, even if they're terrible, just so they won't have to go back to dating - plus, many are genuinely lacking in the basic social skills needed to sustain any type of long term relationship. They don't even have pets! It takes strong people to enjoy solitude (see the difference between the two?) And while some of us can relish in quiet spaces and tranquil rooms, others take this as a defeat and can't enjoy it. What happened to society? Don't parent's teach and guide offspring into becoming fully functioning adults anymore? (This question would spawn so many comments I thought it best to leave for another time since thoughts of serial killers, insane offspring are linked to parents ....)

Social dysfunction or emotional illness has also become a matter of deep conversation in the many different groups I belong to when relating to loneliness: the nerds, the foodies, the druggies, the snobs, the Catholics (yes, they're a separate entity), the creatives, the Latinos and the sicko's. I float within and throughout all these at different times (depending on where my mind is at or where I happen to work at the time) and so have a good chance of doing some research from different viewpoints. Sometimes the answers are predictable but sometimes the similitude's are scary.

As you will be able to tell, most are of the mind set that the #1 reason you're warped is "the parent's did it"..... there is also another group that attributes many cracks in our psyche to "religion" or for us, the "penguins" (nuns), but the common denominator is simply "family" as the main root cause and it's definitely something "to get over". After that there are so many other varied reasons, like economic standing, lack of education, geographical location and everything else that you have to consider family as the color you've been painted most often than not. Everything else comes after..... Oh, this also means that childhood memories account for a great deal of "comfort food" musings and brings us to our attachment for completely nasty selections we can't live without while giving you a unique "take" on food in general. What kind of food you grew up with, how and who prepared it and how it was enjoyed (or not) also has a lot to do with it; what do you associate with mealtimes? Growing up, were mealtimes something you looked forward to or did you dread sitting down at the table? Another funny note is that most people thought their parental unit lifestyles were a good example yet their lives follow a 180 degree shift from theirs, which tells me A LOT! Looking around, my life also follows this but I can also say that ours was a conscious decision.

While some are guarded when you ask them about their eating habits, initially stating that "Dinner alone is one of life's pleasures, something they enjoy". Certainly cooking for one reveals people at their weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when there's no one else around. Usually they'll say they eat a salad. But when you persist, they finally admit and confess to making peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam or something along those lines and surely nothing healthy, diet related or elaborate. They also undress to eat.... and manners are completely forgotten.

My girlfriend finally told me that when she got her own place, after being liberated from living with her parent's, she subsisted on Ramen, cold pizza and yogurt; a male artist friend who has been living on his own for many years contributed that PBJ, cereal and sushi had sustained him for a couple of years; another friend, female, told us of having a preference for the dollar menu at Wendy's and eating there exclusively for more than a year until she grew to hate it; while one of my Chef friends said that after working with food all day, even the odor of cooking food turned his stomach so he only stocked salad fixings at home which had no aroma and didn't need any cooking at all plus he'd eat in his underwear; my other Chef friend answered that while she also grew tired of looking and smelling fancy food all day, she needed basic comfort food when she got home and it was Mac & Cheese, PBJ, cereal and canned soup for her and pajamas were her stay-at-home clothes; a writer friend who tends to being a shut-in told us that for him it was anything that he could prepare on his portable gas BBQ he has at his back door and he'd come to count on chicken, sausage, hamburgers and steak as the mainstays of his diet and was quite happy, plus he lived in his underwear and never answered the door, no matter who it was. None of my group, except for me, has either a pet or other family members to cook for.

With the male persuasion it's usually some meat based dish. Hamburgers and steak rein supreme. (Quest for fire kind of cuisine) Unless they are in the culinary field and then they go to the other extreme and select either haute cuisine items or digress into little kid land or Dagwood City (which means grilled cheese, take out, humongous sandwiches or delivery). Liquor is also prominently featured as well. I should also mention that if they decide to get together with a group of guys, another dimension is then brought into the mix and then all bets are off and anything could happen.

With females it seems that speed and filling a hole in your soul kind of cooking comes to the forefront, so you see things like cereal, cake or ice cream for dinner while standing over the sink, or nuking one of those "dinners" you see at the supermarket that claim to be healthy and low calorie too, only ending up gobbling an entire Hagen-Daz container in front of the tv later on while working on your laptop. For those that live alone and have learned to temper and accept the solitude, their diets become much healthier and varied, yet many still eat out (Chinese or Sushi being chosen) and only infrequently having food delivered anymore. When groups of women congregate they're more apt to support each other's diets so lighter fare is not rare to find, yet liquor consumption is also popular.

While most would consider that eating alone would be the perfect opportunity of indulging oneself and having your ideal meal under the perfect circumstances, for the most part it seems that being alone means "getting it over with as fast as possible", so fast food, leftovers or what ever's laying around I can pop in my mouth kind of cuisine seems to do the trick (which gives you Mac & Cheese, Ramen or Cup O' Noodles and leftover anything on the menu). Most drink either beer, wine or even bubbly as suitable replacements for dessert, and some have even said that eating out of the can or straight out of the frying pan is also acceptable in a pinch, plus there's no cleanup. Long time loners are more apt to actually cook dinners and will prepare stir fry's, curries or cook ahead so that they will have yummy meals on hand when they don't feel like cooking but want to eat something good. Mood is a big influence when it comes to food too so emotional eating is never a good idea or it will entail a foray into 24 hour mini-marts looking for munchies. I've seen friend's - in their pajamas - at the market buying Ho-Ho's.....

Just think, lately and now that we're right in the middle of this food explosion when everyone is making stars out of chefs, buying so many cookbooks that they sell more than novels, that everyone is trying to learn how to cook or people are trying artisanal types of food production or healthy diets, organic, natural no preservative lifestyles and so much promotion is given to cooking and food in general, that usually when you go to any dinner party you see at least a couple of coffee table cookbooks (in homes where you know the people don't even know where the kitchen is or even know how to turn the stove on) or if the owner of the house is a known great cook that would spend hours creating food for the family, when alone will have a bag of Jelly Bellies for dinner. Eating and food has become a comestible form of entertainment after all.....

So what do you eat when you're home alone? Do you treat yourself with your favorites or do you simply "get it over with"? Do you stay on your diet or let it all hang out? Have a liquid diet instead, skip the food and go directly to dessert? Go all out, cook something lovely, sit at the table with candles and a glass of wine or eat from the pan wearing pajamas with your laptop on your lap? Be assured that whichever you choose there are many more sharing this evening with you; that you are not alone; that there is a brotherhood (sisterhood) supporting your every move that understands your choices; that we are all as screwed up as you are..... because after all, we're all in this together and we all have the same one-way fare. Don't worry about it and don't forget that whatever it is that gets you through the night, it's what makes you YOU and it's cool. So enjoy!

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