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June 19, 2013

I Want to Eat

All the time. I want to eat all the time. And then when I do sit down to eat, I eat quickly, not really tasting the food, although I eat a lot. The food is good, but I've already tasted parts of most of it in the kitchen, where I graze. I graze on what we're making, and I graze on what we've made. I find drawn to the starchy stuff, all the stuff I've been subtly avoiding over the past year—bread and muffins and croutons (THE most amazing croutons, and yes they are just bread, but rosemary garlic bread, sauteed in olive oil...) and pancakes and so much for eating healthy foods all summer. They're not bad foods, but it's these starches I've been craving, and my belly hurts. But then I'll go for another crouton, anyway, and maybe sneak a piece of chocolate from the pantry.

It's been an adjustment. It's not quite the quiet, nurturing environment that I'd conjured up in my head, so lush with trees that I'd hardly notice my work. We work in a regulated kitchen. I wear closed-toed shoes, and my feet hurt. The closest tree is not right outside the door; it's across the street. So far, I sleep indoors. I actually have to interact with people. On one hand, there's this annoyance, and on the other hand, I'm lonely. It's a bit different going to camp in your mid-30s than it is as a kid, or as a counselor fresh out of college. Or even after a few other experiences. Not that I expected anything different, but we don't always know what we expect until we get something else.

The morning, at breakfast, went pretty well. Tonya and I bonded over the trials and tribulations of making pancakes together, one side of the skillet burning the batter while the batter on the other side of the skillet (sigh) remained raw. Celia and I talked about my background, and I was sort of grooving on talking about the GPS stuff. After breakfast and some lunch prep, I took a break, and came upstairs to work on UNAVCO's Facebook feed. When I went back down to the kitchen, the conversation had changed. They were talking about.... heaven forbid...


I'm out of my league. Dish ideas, whimsical talk of cherished ingredients, techniques for baking a crust. Then it got even more personal. One of the cooks asked the other when she first knew she loved food. A tale ensued, with appreciative interjections, and then the question was reciprocated. Of course it was. Still, I hoped the question wouldn't come around to me. Maybe they would get distracted.

We chopped fresh fennel, broccoli from the farm, cauliflower, and onions; washed spinach and kale; ducked into the walk-in refrigerator repeatedly for herbs, fruit, vegetables, and eggs—some, like the broccoli and spinach, from the farm. We're surrounded by food. We are feeding people. I am a cook. I love food. I don't know why I am a bit bewildered when people project these assumptions onto me, categorize me in this way. No, I want to say. You don't understand. I don't even like cooking. That's partly why I'm here.

It would have been impolite and awkward to not ask me, in turn. "Beth, when did you first know you loved food?" I hesitated. "Just one of the moments," Allison continued. "It doesn't have to be the exact first time."

I stuttered through something about not really having that moment, not really knowing I loved food. I might have even ventured to say I wasn't a huge fan of cooking. Then I veered away by saying I have had plenty of food moments, moments of food appreciation, like garlic moments in which I'd bitten into a whole clove of garlic and just been completely in love with food, and we moved on to those instead. Yes, I can remember when I first really began to appreciate garlic, I said. I was with a college friend, Scott, either in college or shortly after, and we cooked something that would become the basis of most of my cooking, still today. He taught me the beauty of simplicity in food. Olive oil and garlic. We sauteed up some onions and mushrooms and whole garlic cloves and diced garlic in olive oil, caramelizing the lot of it, and served it over spaghetti with freshly grated Romano and freshly ground pepper. Delicious. I can taste it now. I want to taste it now, because 1) It's delicious, and 2) It's starchy. What is it with me and starch? I'm going to start thinking of this as fat camp. The camp I went to to become fat.

So, a narrow miss on that one. I faked my way through it. But how much longer will I be able to hold up this thinly veiled guise? There's only one remedy: I have to fall in love with food. In my own way, and not because anyone else loves food. I have to fall in love with food because of what it gives me. And what I can give to it.

I just hope I can fall in love with vegetables and fruit and meats and legumes and starches equally. Can one partition their love equally between the four food groups?

Posted by beth at June 19, 2013 2:13 AM

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About a year ago I started a love affair with yeast. I didn't know what I was tumbling into when I made my first loaf of bread - these are just ingredients; but something from my childhood warned me... Yeast Is Alive.

It's juvenile of course, but also so true - yeast mixed with salt, sugar, flour, oil turns into flesh. It is warm, pliant, giving, it is life. And you bake it as pure as that, and are rewarded with... bread - warm, toothy, begging for butter, or olive oil, or just itself against your teeth.

Baking... it is such a trap.

Posted by: Michael Burton at June 19, 2013 4:56 AM

Mmmmmmm, butter... I love it. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. We've got some sourdough starter going here, which I have nothing to do with, but talk about alive...

Posted by: Beth at June 20, 2013 2:55 AM

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