Friday, March 5, 2010

When food is what it's all about

I'm having a harder time this weekend. I'm here at the beach again, this time with old friends. Two things are striking me. First, this is a group that has always had food at its center. We started meeting in 2000 every week for dinner before seminars in a transformational education program we were all in together. We continued to meet weekly for dinner for nearly 9 years. We've been coming to the beach for a long weekend for six years and we celebrate birthdays with fancy dinners and cake. Second, when there's a lot of talk and little activity, I want to eat.

This weekend isn't a writing retreat where we keep to ourselves mostly to work on our creative projects. This is a togetherness weekend and the center of the togetherness is a kitchen counter groaning with snacks. There's not much sugar although somebody goofed up in the organizing and we have two--TWO--German chocolate cakes for dessert. But there's too much food. There are six of us and we could feed dozens several times over. And there are chips and nuts and pretzels and other little nibbly things.

I also find that sitting around talking isn't very satisfying to me. I've never been one for small talk, for goofing around like that. I want more intense experiences, deeper connections, something to do. And so I've been eating all afternoon--and none of it has satisfied me. I'm still restless even though I'm full, I'm still wanting something more. And of course I know what would fix me: several pieces of that cake.

Much of our contemporary social life is about food. Getting together over coffee (and eat a scone if it's morning and a cookie if it's afternoon), get together over dinner or a work breakfast. Our culture sees it as a sign of hospitality to offer food and drink, and it probably comes from an earlier time when people traveled a long way to see each other and arrived thirsty and hungry or didn't get a chance to eat often and it was generous to share whatever you had. Now they look like overeating opportunities to me. All this is a good learning--what I need to feel okay and what I need to stay safe. Staying out of the kitchen, having more activity, and not having cake in the house!

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