It’s the holiday season. In my house, and in many others, this means two things: Food and family. For me, this includes one more thing - fear, only adding to this alliterative context.
Diwali has only recently just passed. We usually buy a small box of mithai - sweets - just for us, in addition to buying for others. For those who prefer the non traditional route, we buy pastries at the Lower East Side Italian bakery that my parents frequented before my older brother was born and that my mom went to before ever having met my father.
This time around, my parents bought pastries for themselves. I opted out of a baked item. I don’t even think they bothered to ask if I had wanted anything.
This year, everyone opted out of the box of Indian dessert, however, we received a rather large box that was from a famed sweet seller in Jackson Heights. My father decided to keep it at home. Inside the box was a large variety, including some of my favorites. I couldn’t bring myself to eat any save for ¼ of two, so ½ of one over the course of a week.
Today is the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. At the Sikh temple, you’re not only given prashad - a token blessing in the form of halwa or a confection made up of equal parts sugar, wheat flour, and ghee - but you’re also given, should you want, langar - a full vegetarian meal.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and this year there will most likely be a Punjabi spread at the dining table, almost identical to what is found in the temple save for extras in the form of fried appetizers, meat dishes, and desserts galore.
Added to this, I’m moving into my family’s new home this weekend. After two years of building from scratch and designing my bedroom alone which entailed ordering wallpaper from England, discovering a handcrafted bed carved from mango wood and inspired by Myanmar, and hanging a Turkish lantern above said bed, there will be nary time to utilize the new kitchen much less the old one.
Take-out will be a given.
Recovering from anorexia and having to eat more than I have ever ate in my life, I have been trying in earnest to balance my carb, fat, and protein intake. I can’t skimp or skip a meal nor can I workout to stave off fullness like everyone else can.
That is why I am so fearful.
I fear my stomach will burst. I fear that I will never enjoy my holidays much less life should I eat any extra morsels. Constantly without an appetite and bloated: I know this to be normal.
I know all the weight will disproportionately go to my midsection - always flat for the entirety of my life up until now, ironically, when I’m almost 30 pounds below what I should weigh. I know it will take upwards of eight months before the weight redistributes from my abdomen to the rest of my body. I know that in order to feel hunger again, I have to increase my intake so as to rev up my nonexistent metabolism.
Easier said than done.
I know all this and yet it is so difficult to swallow - no pun was intended but I guess that since I have decided to leave the wording as is, the pun is intended.
Truth is, in the past I ate without a care and without planning, because subconsciously I knew that I had not eaten much or anything else and so I could indulge in that second serving of dinner or that piece of pie. I enjoyed taking a fistful of prashad, not minding the ghee that left my hands shiny from its oily fatty content.
I ate all those delightful seasonal specialties because I deserved it - I had worked out or ate nil in anticipation of “splurging” on the expected tasty nourishment that came with days off from school and work.
My mother and I used to go to the bakery on weekends. It was sort of our bonding time. I remember how pleasant it was. We wouldn’t argue about how much I or she was eating or how full we felt or how much we had to work out after.
We would both order a caffeinated beverage. I would either have an apricot hamentashen or apricot-amaretto marzipan-covered “railroad” tart. She would usually opt for the traditional Napoleon or cannoli. I remember both of us heating up the lemony-ricotta flaky sfogiatelle pastries the morning after my father brought them home from Manhattan. That was our breakfast.
I remember calling the local bakery everyday between the end of September and Thanksgiving to see if their inventory now included pumpkin and sweet potato pie.
A week ago, my mother asked if I would eat any of the pies should they have them. I adamantly answered that I would not. So she opted out as well.
My parents love sweets and so the steadfastness was short-lived. To make up for the absence of Apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato pies, my mother bought a pumpkin cheesecake yesterday for her and my father. She picked it up from the bakery section of the supermarket.
I was horrified. Parish the thought: a post-modern confectionary concoction made on the premise of a supermarket, that while lovely, is by no means equivalent to one of the artisanal bakeries that my mother, brother and I had grown up with. Our palettes are much too refined for a supermarket-buy.
I then felt terribly sad. By refusing to share in the holiday spirit, I had denied my parents of enjoying the holidays as well.
I then felt good- disciplined. I am 25-years-old and I decide what I put into my body.
I consciously left my mom alone yesterday when she was cutting a slice of the pumpkin spice - latte inspired cheesecake. I heard her dismiss it. The distaste was audible. It was terrible. She had to nullify the terrible aftertaste and so I heard her reaching for the next best thing she could find in the kitchen to mask the artificial flavors. Toothpaste just wouldn’t cut it.
This morning when I went to make my oatmeal, the cheesecake was gone. Its resemblance to toxic waste caused her to dispose of it in multiple bags before being placed into the large garbage bag, sitting in a bin on the side of my house.
I remember eating bagels and preferring them sliced and toasted outside instead of at home and on the stove. I remember asking for extra butter. I remember sopping up the requisite mess with the pillowy bagel instead of patting it with napkins.
The same napkins I would use to hide balled up pieces of bread that my parents tried to make me eat whilst I began this journey of losing weight and in the process, losing myself.
Al this I remember. I remember us fighting leading up to, during, and after holidays in the past as well, but for different reasons that did not revolve around me or my health.
Despite the cheesecake fiasco, the mood was relatively light. We were watching one of the many piled up DVR-ed shows that we hadn’t had time to watch. We ate different dinners. My mother made penne a la vodka with traces of ham for her and my father. A buttered baguette would accompany it. Vocalized regret ensued, not surprisingly. We all have become incredibly anal about our food choices.
I was to make my white wine-seared salmon on a bed of black rice with low-sodium soy sauce and a couple of egg whites.
And then all hell broke loose. Not about our differing dinner plans, but about an unknown number on a scale. About the stupid God Forsaken “passenger airbag off” light that flashes on the dashboard even while I’m sitting there. It was about all these inanimate things. What is scary was that the terrible ambience in my house, only hours before Thanksgiving, is about me - considered inanimate by cars and everyone else but me.
I’m scared and I am fearful, but I am so much more than that as well.
“I am Kayak, hear me roar.”
Because Emily Gilmore from Gilmore Girls knows what’s up: I’m not a canoe. I don’t need to be steered by two paddles manhandled by two separate persons.
I’m a kayak- all I need is my own self to steer my own course.