Food for Thought
Reese Green, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s1d2

Everyone eats. Most of us eat eagerly and frequently. We hurriedly lick our fingers for the last morsel, slurp our sodas for the last drop, and scrape our plates for the last spoonful. My love and primal desire for food is something I share with everyone. These similarities don’t extend much further.

I became aware of my abnormal relationship with food in middle school. This “light-bulb moment” came with a heavy price. I had somehow escaped being ridiculed for my clothes, my hair, or my acne- conflicts that coming of age stories like the Junie B. Jones books tended to ascribe to the middle school experience. I was delighted to escape this seemingly universal right of passage.

This temporary refuge was swiftly shattered. Upon entering 7th grade at a new school, I was ridiculed for something I found so normal that ridiculing it felt abnormal: my food. Suddenly my speckled dijon mustard, my organic, unrefined whole wheat bread, and my frighteningly exotic kumquats became my version of “acne.” These foods didn’t resemble my comrade’s perfect lunches. They instead armed themselves with white wonderbread, flawless jelly, and creamy peanut butter. Lunchtime with me became a 12 year old girl’s version of an oddity shop: my brown paper bag was a cache of entertaining surprises. I weakly combatted the playful jabs my fellow students threw, claiming that being a vegetarian wasn’t weird, even if I was comparable to a rabbit among steak-loving wolves. I disputed their claims that vegenaise wasn’t gross, and argued that it actually tastes just like its more traditional counterpart, mayonnaise. While my eating choices in middle school reflected my “granola” upbringing in a conservative state, my claim to fame arose in high school.

Ironically, this tirade of intolerance cultivated a nonchalant culinary attitude (this perspective should not be mistaken for indifference). Instead of turning to wonderbread for support, I dropped any pretense of “normality” when it came to eating. I adopted a humorous, childlike curiosity, subjecting myself to any whim that reached my fingers. I began to consider, as opposed to blindly consume, my food. I discovered that by disregarding a kiwi’s furry coat of biological protection, I could effortlessly enjoy the sweet fruit like an apple: with skin attached. To the great chagrin of my lunchmates, I applied this behavior to all of my eating. Avocado skins became convenient dishes in which I could dip my utensil of choice: a chip. Although I made my own cereal, I did not magically become a girl from little house on the Prairie, as many seemed to believe. The inner revolution didn’t stop here. Sophomore year I decided I had outgrown child’s play when it came to food. I quit all refined sugars- and not for the purpose of losing weight. Instead of losing weight, I gained a hyper awareness of my consumption.

This choice was met with varied enthusiasm from observers. Shock and disbelief won the popular vote, while negative assumptions came in close second. Although admiration made its mark, outsiders’ responses captured the abnormality and severity of my decision. Ironically, although I was limiting food, food stopped limiting itself. Food enriched the rest of my life as joyfully as a sweet and sour raspberry melts on the tongue. It bled into my academic and artistic experience. I wrote an essay dedicated to every food metaphor in Hamlet, demonstrating how impactful food can be in literature. Food puns defined my art portfolio- and still do. My pieces (notable titles include “See Food” and “Eyes Cream”) harnessed my culinary inclinations, encouraging mindful consumption.

I realized that eating wasn’t what had been so abnormal for me in middle school. My attitude toward what I was eating was abnormal. I considered food outside of its traditional brand. The theme in my culinary desires was not a reflection of a “hipster” upbringing; it was a reflection of careful frivolity, of playful mindfulness. Eating is ritual that EVERY person on earth performs. We scrape our plates with enthusiasm, but hurriedly and sloppily, not digesting what we are digesting. I have fought for my food, and continue to attentively relish the last morsel, the last drop, and the final spoonful.
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