Hey, did you know that when you go off chemo, you get hideously depressed? It's weird. I would have thought exactly the opposite. Hopefully that’s all done now, but just in case, my friend Ed of More Items of Limited Interest wrote a guest post that had me tickled from beginning to end. Enjoy!
When I learned that Tammy would be running some guest entries on FOTF, to my delight, she acquiesced and allowed me to participate. Then I realized I don’t know much about food. This was a challenge, given that the word "food" comprises 62 percent of the blog’s title. Unfortunately for me, but thankfully for you, gentle reader, I have enough issues with food and self-esteem that I can easily bang out 1,000 words on one of my favorite subjects.
Hi, my name is Ed, and I’m a secret eater.
I was a fat kid. I was always tall for my age—and always big. I was eleven pounds at birth (and born a month early to boot). Branded with the scarlet “H” (Husky) in my Tuffskins. Labeled “pleasingly plump” by a grandmother who probably thought it was a compliment. (Actually, I’m pretty sure she didn’t. Thanks for nothing, Gram.) I liked food, and it liked me. Actually, it taunted me mercilessly, leaving me in that strange place between pleasure and self-disgust (I call it “plelf-disgust”).
The shame really hit when I was around 14 or so, when I realized that: 1) hey, these pants don’t fit; and 2) this shirt is also kind of snug. It was around that time that I found my food intake was being catalogued. Not by me, but by, well, a parent whose name rhymes with “Tom.” Admittedly, it was hard to avoid when you ate, say, 29 Hydrox or consumed 80 percent of the bag of chips that were being saved for “company.” The cataloging did nothing more than make me more determined than ever to continue my eating, in secret.
So, like the Vanessa Williams Penthouse I hid under my mattress (“Oh God! She’s Nude”—I never really understood why they used a file photo of Miss America and George Burns to sell what was really a grainy collection of amateurish photos, but that’s neither here nor there), I hid my eating. And, like the magazine, when my eating was found out, it was pretty shameful. Imagine checking in on Ms. Williams and finding that someone had replaced it with the previous week’s church bulletin.
Incidentally, about that time, I became a church organist. Let me tell you, I beat the women off with a stick (Overweight—check! Ill-fitting clothes from Bradlees—check! Awesome hairstyle with down-the-middle part—check! And he can play “Faith of Our Fathers” by ear? I can’t believe he doesn’t have a girlfriend!). So, there were a lot of things conspiring to unite me with secret eating.
Then, at age 18, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It was miraculous in that I went from a portly 240 lbs. to a rather gaunt 166 lbs. I was actually encouraged to eat more. Despite that, or perhaps thanks to it, food and I remained tremendous frenemies. To this day, I still fall victim to the siren’s song that is the extra, forbidden snack.
I plead guilty to encouraging my wife to go to bed early so I can sit down with a box of Rice Chex, and then create a cereal/milk imbalance that can only be corrected by adding more of each, until I have consumed 34 servings. Clearly, I know that while my wife hates to bear witness to the gastric distress caused by nine bowls of bedtime cereal, I don’t think she thinks less of me as a person due to my inability to say no to excess cereal. (I like to think that she considers this just another one of my fantastic personality quirks that does nothing to detract from the endless cavalcade of whimsy that is our marriage).
So, my plan is to share, for the first time, some of my best practices related to secret eating. With no further ado:
Milwaukee County Stadium, 4th-8th innings, Brewers vs. Dodgers, August 1999: During a cross-country trip to visit major league ballparks, I exit my seat each inning, using a variety of excuses, including the need to freshen up, purchase souvenirs or simply “reflect on the great Brewers of the 1982 AL Champions team.” In fact, I was making a bee-line to the conveniently-located bratwurst stand and enjoying a brat with everything, including something called “Stadium Sauce,” which I’m told is nothing more than ketchup and mustard mixed together.
Why it works: Sporting events are excellent secret eating opportunities, due to the ease of food acquisition, the distraction offered by the game you have paid to ostensibly watch, or the hope that your friends will be too shitfaced to judge you too harshly.
Pretty much every time I visited Anna’s Taqueria, 1998-present: Convincing the cashier at the local taqueria that I am, in fact, ordering for myself and my friend Hank (author’s note: I don’t have a friend named Hank), and going so far as to order two drinks and separate bags to keep the ruse alive.
Why it works: The second drink/separate bag fools them every time, as does completing your transaction with someone for whom English may be a second or third language.
McDonald’s Drive-Through Windows Following Client Meetings/Dinners, 1996-present: I work in a client-service industry, and by and large, the one iron-clad rule to which I adhere is this: eat dainty portions in front of the client, and then hit the closest drive-through for the return trip. There’s nothing more unsightly for a client than having your vendor try to discuss strategy while eating from one of those taco shell salads. And let’s face it, you’d never see Don Draper eating a Sloppy Joe while getting that far-off creative look in his eyes as he spins a masterful campaign for Kodak slide carousels or London Fog coats.
Why it works: Allows you to maintain your dignity in front of clients; drive home is also a wonderful opportunity to spent some quality time with a 20-piece McNuggets and a Shamrock Shake. NOTE: If you’re going with colleagues, be sure to suggest that you drive separately.
By keeping these handy tips in mind, you, too, can master the shameful art of secret eating. Thank you.
(Seriously, you guys can leave now … Mmf. What? What? … I did not eat the last 19 Pecan Sandies. I resent the implication).