Somebody said free pizza?!?! The Emotional Significance of Food

This summer, I read the book Wild by Nature. It was about an explorer, Sarah Marquis, who walked alone from Siberia to Australia. In this book, she was explaining what it is like to be hungry. How painful hunger can be. It is strange how humans completely stop functioning correctly when this intense desire kicks in. When you feel as if your stomach is caving in. You become obsessive about putting something, anything in your mouth. Hunger is unbearable, simple as that.

Before moving here, I was living with my parents; meaning a motherload of goodies in the fridge at all times. It is because of this abundance back home, I felt like I was eating to live, not living to eat. I could go through my day without really thinking about food because I knew it would always be waiting for me. Now, it seems my days revolve around it. I can feel my animal instinct more than ever. I have the impression that I am chasing food, not just shopping for groceries. Having to provide and fulfil my own needs made me greedy toward any culinary pleasure and free food. Let me tell you a little secret: you know, the Freshers’ Fair? Well. I came for the free food – we all did. What kind of human beings are we turning into? The kind that obsess over Free Domino’s pizza.

Food. Food. This word. It’s been on my mind for three weeks. The whole experience of staying in student accommodation has made me feel as if I can relate to Sarah Marquis’s experience. Fine. I didn’t cross the Gobi Desert on my own with only a few pounds of rice to eat as Sarah Marquis did. I am certainly not starving either. However, I must say I did walk in the pouring rain from the University campus to my flat at 5 pm with only my breakfast in my stomach because I forgot to go to Tesco the day before feeling like I was crossing a desert. It was really dramatic.

More seriously, what I am trying to say is this whole experience of studying abroad has transformed my relationship with food. Food has started to be an emotional thing for me. Since when have grocery lists become love letters? How sensual “peanut putter” and “honey” on toast now sound? It’s like hearing Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye.

I’ve become totally infatuated with eating. Who gets slightly aroused after buying 6 kiwis for £1? I sure do. These days I think about soy milk and granola all the time. What a nice combo.  Who has trouble sleeping because they’re thinking too much about new recipes to make? I do. I keep a pen and a notebook beside my bed just in case I figure out what to do with the cute butternut squash I bought impulsively because it was cheap and all alone on the shelf.

Flat sharing made me see that I was not alone with my obsession with food. Talking about our cravings made my flatmates and I bond easily and learn a little more about each other. I know some of them are more patient than others with cooking, more creative, messier, or traditional – some have a sweet tooth, others like more savoury cuisine. Moreover, cooking, eating and sharing together create beautiful moments. The person willing to give me a piece of his or her freshly made brownies is a superior human being.

I think the fact that all of my flatmates have their lives more focused around food makes them a bit more receptive and open about trying different diets. This represents a great opportunity to make people discover both vegan and vegetarian food. To show everyone how it is accessible, diverse, cheap, tasty and easy to make. In addition, how adopting this once in while is good for your beach bod but more importantly a sustainable way of eating.

I like to think my new emotional relationship with eating has made me a little envious toward the two lucky pals beside me who are eating a really sexy pizza while I am writing this article. It also made me extremely appreciative toward my mother who taught me how to cook and introduced me to a vegetarian diet. Without those skills, I would not be able to recreate my grandmother’s tomato soup and share it with my ill flatmate. Let me tell you that a lot of comfort can be found in a bowl of soup made with love, compassion, and a little bit of salt and pepper.

[Isabelle Chénier]

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