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August 24, 2013 / Ang

Being the friend of Foodies

The truth of the matter is: Sometimes having Foodies as friends can be awkward.

Foodie Friends

I have friends who are obsessed with food. A friend of mine is a chef. Another friend would probably love to be a chef, but pursuing that during his academic career would have just been silly – clearly studying philosophy was the practical choice because it has so many job opportunities. I have a friend who I assume is a vegetarian, and I’m pretty sure the majority of her fruits and vegetables are either grown in her garden, grown in the garden her husband works for, grown on her friend’s fruit trees, or bought from a farmers’ market. I also have a friend who isn’t a vegetarian, but has an obsession with being able to see ingredients in her foods. At least for the most part. If she makes something or it’s something she knows tastes great at a restaurant she makes concessions.

I’m not positive about the chef, but otherwise all of them do their best to eat organically and make everything from scratch. I tease two of them from time to time about being elitists. One of them retorted with, “I’m not an elitist, I’m a foodie. Get it right, man.”

My Love/Hate Relationship with Food

So, here’s the thing: I love to cook. Seriously. Right before winter break last year I spent hours making goodies to share – and then promptly gave most of them away. I also have a history of making dinner for people just because I can, especially if I want to spend time with someone. Other times I just accidentally make too much and then end up begging someone to come help me eat. I think that cooking is a stress relief method sometimes, or at least baking is. I admit that sometimes I get in over my head, though. I’ll take on huge projects (such as making several batches of cake pops for a bake sale) and then be exhausted and wish I could have finished sooner by the end of the night.

As much as I love MAKING food, a lot of the time I hate eating it. I’m really not sure when I developed an aversion to food, but it’s been around for a long time. I was always somewhat of a picky eater. I remember being more adventurous when I was younger and slowly but surely developing a hatred for different foods. For instance I’m nearly positive that I used to eat onion rings, now I pretty much HATE anything involving onions. I avoid sauces that have onion chunks, I won’t get onions on any of my food, etc.

There is so much more to it than being choosy, though. And sometimes I’m choosy out of necessity.

I think I was in middle school when I first lied about my weight. I may have been even younger, honestly. I know I was younger when I first started worrying about it. If someone ever tries to claim that there’s no societal influence on young girls and body image – he or she is either ignorant or a liar. I’m trying to look back and figure out when exactly my insecurities started, and they’ve been around so long that I honestly can’t pinpoint them. I KNOW in fourth grade when I signed up for cheerleading I wished that I could be a flyer – the small, pretty girl who got a lot of the attention. I know in third grade someone made me freak out about how my legs were hairy – I tried to shave my legs and got a scar for my trouble at the ripe old age of 9. I don’t know if my concerns prior to that were entirely social or if my body played into them even then.

In middle school I got weird about eating. I didn’t like other people seeing me eat. I’m not even sure what the issue was for sure, it just freaked me out. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was surrounded by backstabbing bitches. I honestly don’t think that I’m friends with pretty much ANY of the girls I sat at lunch with back in the day. I remember asking if they were talking about me the one day and having my then best friend lie to my face about it.

It got to the point where I would try to finish whatever I was eating before anyone else got to the table. I don’t think I was eating much, and that must have played into my ability to finish it while everyone else was in line. It got me some weird looks, though, I think. I don’t know looking back if the looks were about the fact that I must have been a freak to be able to finish my lunch that quickly (although it wasn’t a lot) or if it was about the fact that I wasn’t eating when they were. It might have been both.

By high school I was intentionally eating small meals. By the time I graduated lunch entailed an apple muffin (mini-muffin?) maybe two, and some chocolate milk. If I was REALLY hungry I would have some fries from time to time – the smell was too tempting.

In college, between how busy I was, the fact that I didn’t like to eat alone, and my hatred of food I just got into the habit of skipping as many meals as possible. I would usually eat once a day, and put that meal off for as long as possible. Unless I was randomly in a binging mood. I admit it. Sometimes I would binge eat. Those periods were usually followed by the normal hatred and avoidance of food.

A Justified Intolerance

I admit that a lot of my eating issues stemmed from disordered eating. I’ll confess. That happened. I also had REALLY GOOD REASONS to hate food, though. I’ve had digestive issues of various types periodically throughout my life.

When I was a teenager I was given a GERD diagnosis, and they tried various reflux medications trying to figure out how to get rid of my heartburn and nausea. No matter what happened I still didn’t feel well, though. Finally, my senior year, a doctor looked at me and said, “Wait. I treated your sister, didn’t I? Why haven’t any of your doctors ordered a colonoscopy yet?” He figured out literally at the last possible moment of my high school career that the troubles I had were caused by nonspecific colitis. Nonspecific colitis that had apparently been driving me crazy for years and made me feel awkward forever. Do you know how it feels to have people stare at you when you come back after you have to wander off to the bathroom and come back forever later?

I don’t know if everyone had the anorexia figured out or not, but I’m nearly positive that people thought I was bulimic. I wasn’t. I promise. I hate puking. I would never do it intentionally. I WAS unintentionally purging, though, thanks to colitis. Again: I hate my body.

If you had to put up with people giving you weird looks for getting sick after meals or just starting to skip meals, which would you choose? I chose avoiding food to avoid getting sick.

The Effect of my Food Aversion on Foodie Friendships

There are so many foods that I have to avoid because of my digestive issues. I’ve been careful to stay away from spicy food for as long as I can remember between never really having a taste for them and figuring out that nearly every spice under the sun can make me sick. It’s an unfortunate reality. As a result, I feel like I’m ignorant when my friends ask me about various foods and what I like. Sometimes I just want to look at them and go, “Uhh… Chicken. And cheese. And other bland foods with smooth textures.”

There are days that I get frustrated with people, not my foodies specifically, but other people out there in the world. An example would be a friend I had who was studying nutrition. She insisted my diet was terrible and she knew how to fix it – but she was ignorant of my dietary restrictions. Even when I told her that I had to avoid spices at all costs for the most part (thankfully basil and oregano have not betrayed me), and foods that were high in fiber, she seemed at a loss. She seemed to think all I had to do was magically introduce variety into my diet and start eating salads (which would pretty much kill me) and I would be in so much better shape. When I was told to start eating more salt because of my POTS she honestly called her mom about how weird it sounded and because she didn’t believe it could possibly be good for me.

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to have to explain to people time after time: “NO, I CAN’T EAT THOSE THINGS”? The answer is extremely. I hate when everyone talks about whole food diets and eating whole wheat products, insist that I should be eating salads, etc. Sorry, folks, but it’s a little bit difficult for me to eat those without getting sick. Trade me bodies and then tell me how terrible white bread is for me after having my reaction to high fiber foods.

My foodies, though, they can’t seem to fathom not having an extensive knowledge of what I can and can’t eat. They don’t understand simply restricting your diet to “safe foods,” and being afraid to take risks on foods you don’t know will be edible without consequence. It embarrasses me sometimes that I can’t really say, “Oh, yeah, I love squash,” etc.

The truth of the matter is that not only have I had to restrict to safe foods. It’s more than not knowing what to eat and not really wanting to eat (whether for mental or physical reasons). I also haven’t really had the opportunity to eat foods that strike me as exotic because I eat such a limited diet. My parents didn’t bring those types of foods into the house all that often or insist that I try them when I was younger and had no fear of food. We also ate food out of boxes, cans, and restaurants – a lot.

We couldn’t really afford to do the buying organic food and cooking elaborate meals thing. We had time crunches – my stepdad goes to work in the middle of the night so he would always go to bed really early. Dinner time was pretty much immediately after school in my family. But we also couldn’t afford to go out and buy the organic ingredients and special spices.

We still can’t afford that. My friend was talking to me about how much better organic foods are for you, and he was talking about how brilliant various spices are and how they should be stored, why “ground cinnamon” isn’t actually cinnamon but cassia and how I should find real cinnamon sticks and grind freshly.

I saw the disappointment on his face when I told him that I don’t really buy garlic and mince for recipes but use garlic powder, or in the case of my toaster garlic bread: garlic salt. It was like I killed his spirit. He’s had the liberty of money to afford to develop expensive habits, though, so when we go to the stores together it’s always funny because I look for thriftiness a lot of the time while he’s looking at the most expensive things in the store because they’re the highest quality.

Sometimes I’m ashamed of my diet and wish I had more money so that I could afford to experiment, afford to buy things organically, and buy the best spices instead of whatever seems most affordable. I have confidence that some day my attempts to be a foodie for cheap will ultimately bloom into me being able to afford to get the higher quality ingredients. When that happens, I’ll probably have to beg my friends to reeducate me.

Oh, and by the way, not having much experience in the kitchen with making things from scratch because mixes are less expensive, or experience in certain matters because your parents never went down that route and tend to make you feel incapable in terms of culinary matters can get embarrassing. I struggled with a knife and peeler at my friend’s house the other day just because I wasn’t used to peeling apples or coring them. And yet I managed to help make homemade apple pie two years ago. How did this happen? Silly life.

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