By Rebecca T. Dickinson
A Short Narrative
Life cannot be as it was before. Nothing could be as it was before: friendships, money, love, or dishware. My husband says the cooking channels are to me what porn is to some men. I don’t know how true that claim is, but when I watch television, I turn to the cooking channels. I figure it’s not too bad for our two-year-old son. He learns new words such as avocado and Asiago cheese. I learn things I never knew growing up like how to take out the avocado seed or what to look for when I shop for lamb, beef, chicken, or duck. I listen and read information so I know what to look for.
I am not the next girl on Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, or one of the other reality cook shows—the ones I never watch. I am the girl who finds the stories of friends, strangers, and my family in the kitchen; in the food. Those who know my family would say, “How is that? Your family never—or can’t—cook.”
I grew up in a house where Mom never cooked, and Dad threw steaks on the grill. He served them with fluffy rice out of the box, potatoes, and bread. Women envied Dad because he remained skinny while he filled his belly with starch. What choice did he have? He spoiled Mom, my brother, and I. We were all picky in different ways. Thomas, my brother, preferred the starch buffet.
In eighth grade and through my sophomore year in college food was my number one enemy. I had a low self-esteem, and believed throughout high school absolutely no boy liked me. I was tall, socially awkward because of how little I understood about the world, and I thought I was fat. Girls mentioned their weight, especially if it was below 110 lbs. I was a tall, tall girl. I did not understand healthy body weight for my height.
Food and I went to war. I starved myself or threw up what I ate. It was a combination. A former friend liked to tell people I did it for attention, yet the monster grew behind closed doors. It became bigger than the shadows on the wall. I wanted to defeat it, but I didn’t know how. I wanted to shut that girl’s mouth up and show her, but how could I? Friends and family who knew me well understood I suffered from an ongoing problem. No one figured out how to fight the monster.
I took one step at a time. Chains of friendship broke, and I determined from that point no one had the right say who or what I was. No one could mold lies. At the same time, no one could defeat the beast inside me. I needed to find the right weapons.
What does cooking and dishware have to do with this?
I never cared about the difference between a skillet and a sauce pot. What use was a 13 by 9 casserole dish? Time, passion for the written word, love of family, and chefs, like Giada, would teach me to turn my battle into a talent and gift.