Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Mood Food

I had an emotional night of watching late night films.  After I finished watching Philadelphia (not a good movie to watch at 1am), thankfully, The Jerk was also on another one of the hundreds of satellite channels to view.  The tears turned to laughter and eventually, I could go to sleep.

As I was lying in bed awake til the wee hours of the morning, thanks to an Indian tea which was not decaffeinated at Westbourne Spice (no fault of their own, I just love it), I started thinking about foods you eat or don't eat depending on your mood.  Moods really do dictate what we put into our mouth or not for that matter.  This has changed for me along with the aging process, but thinking long and hard about it, it is an interesting phenomenon as to how I react to situations and how food enters into them!

For me, the first clear cut hint of the correlation between food and moods was when my father died in 1980 at the age of 60.  He was far too young and I was far too young to lose him.   I was the baby in the family and I was certainly his little girl and he was certainly my daddy!  I adored him, I admired him,  I respected him, I laughed with him, I cried with him and I loved him.  My father had his first heart attack when I was 16 and it was a massive one.  He was lucky to have survived and I was blessed to have him in my life for another 5 years. 

I don't deal well with death.  I shut down, I screw up, I try and act like nothing has changed, when in reality my world is falling apart.  I don't give myself time to grieve properly, but I am breaking inside.  So when my father died, food just wasn't a priority.  I didn't eat, I couldn't eat. 

In the Jewish religion, after a death you have a period of mourning called Shiva.  It usually lasts a week and people come to visit the bereaved family in their home to talk, relive memories of the deceased and say prayers at various times throughout the day.  They also bring food - lots and lots of food!  In the Jewish faith, immediate family members do not do any sort of work during the Shiva period, we don't clean, we don't cook. Our friends and families come to the Shiva house to help throughout the day and evening.  Trays of food are set out by these wonderfully caring people and the mourners sit around the table to eat.  Most eat with gusto, most find food a diversion from sadness, most can almost forget for that meal the reason why we are sitting around that table in the first place.  I couldn't, I just couldn't!  I picked, but I couldn't eat.  My family history was always centred around the dining table with food being a focal point of everything good.  This was not good and it didn't seem right to be relishing a meal around a table that only brought back memories of laughter and love.  At least not at that moment in time!  It's funny, I have only ever dreamed about my father twice and to this day these dreams are so vivid in my mind.  In one my father was bringing a cake to his own Shiva. Strange when looking back, one of the dreams about my dad involved food!  Maybe he was telling me to eat!

In complete contrast to the sadness of the death of my father was the occasion of my first wedding.  Again, I couldn't eat!  I was far too excited to eat, far too elated and far to concerned to make sure the wedding went exactly to plan!  Of course it did, it went without a hitch.  My parents and I planned this wedding down to every minute detail, my husband to be was pretty much an invited guest.  Don't forget this was 1979.  Nothing was missing.  I got exactly the wedding gown I wanted.  I remember trying on the dress and just knowing that this was the dress I wanted to wear when walking down the aisle.  It was more money than we had planned to spend, but my mother said to me in the shop, "let's take it home, try it on for Daddy and when he sees you in it, he will see how beautiful you look and let you have it."  That is exactly what happened.  I tried it on, his eyes welled up and money was never an issue.  From that point, I knew this wedding was going to be perfect. 

The caterer was a good friend of my parents, so the menu was flawless and nothing was missing.  Canapes were flowing, several courses for a sit down meal, intermezzo after the fish course to cleanse your palette, prime rib of beef, desserts, fruit and even whole rounds of halvah were rolled out onto the floor.  The drink was flowing as well.  Only the best spirits were served at the open bar.  Nobody left hungry or thirsty.  However, I didn't eat.  I mingled, I talked, I danced, I made sure it was perfect!  I couldn't even think about the food, I was too concerned with everyone else being happy with the food and everyone else just being happy in general.  Besides, I was on cloud nine and up there, who needs food?

Next came the birth of my three children.  When I went into labour with my oldest daughter Amy, she decided she would take 42 hours to make an entrance in this world.  I didn't gain much weight with this pregnancy, although I ate like a pig.  In fact, I was instructed to drink milkshakes on a daily basis to put on extra weight.  Not a bad thing in my mind, milkshakes are always good.  Once labour started with Amy, I was told to eat very little as too much food can make one nauseous during the labour/delivery process.  I didn't want to eat very little, I was hungry.  I listened however, not realising it was going to be nearly 2 days before Amy was born.  Whilst at home in labour, not eating was difficult, I was hungry and so excited!  I wanted to celebrate with good food, but I had to contain myself.  Not an easy task, but achievable.  Once I was admitted to the hospital and induced, the thought of food didn't cross my mind.  I was in way too much pain to think about food.  Even the ice chips and sips of water weren't easy to get down.  Food was no longer a priority, getting this little one out safely was and at 7.32pm on the 14th of May 1982, my first of three bundles of joy arrived.  We were in the hospital for 5 days because of a dry labour and my appetite returned very quickly and the celebrations began with various foods being brought even to the hospital. Once home, of course that is when the celebrations really began and family life once again focused on food!

With daughter number two, Meredith was five days late and labour was only about 12 hours.  Our next door neighbour at the time was a wonderful cook and he had a theory when an overdue pregnant woman ate his wingy dingies (hot spicy chicken wings), they would induce labour. Of course I asked Don ever so nicely if he would make me a batch of his world famous wingy dingies.  He very graciously obliged.  I ate these wingy dingies with great gusto, not because of the thought of labour beginning, but because they were absolutely delicious. Spicy, crispy and saucy, three elements in chicken wings that make me very happy.  I'd like to say that the wingy dingies worked, but they didn't, they just gave me great enjoyment and a great story to relate.  Our next daughter Meredith entered our lives on the 13th of May, 1985 at 9.30pm with no complications and of course the celebrations began immediately, again focused around food and love!

Four years later, my baby, my Gabriella was born.  She was two weeks late.  I was massive.  My stomach announced itself before I even entered the room.  I remember asking my gynecologist if he was sure that he didn't miss something and he told me I was just being silly, that I wasn't that big.  He then excused himself for a moment, went out of the examining room and spoke to one of the other doctors.  He said, " I have this patient who is really rather large in there and I would like you to come and examine her to make sure I haven't missed another heartbeat."  Dr. Lowen walked back inside and I just gave him a little smirk and reminded him that I wasn't deaf, I was pregnant.  We laughed.  There was only Gabriella, Dr. Lowen did not miss anything.  I ate throughout the pregnancy, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I was big, she was big, end of story.  The day before I went into labour with Gab, we went to one of my favourite restaurants, Friendly Farms.  Since Gab was already just about 2 weeks late, I decided I should try Don's theory and get something spicyish, so I got their crabcakes which are simply divine.  Jumbo lump crab meat with virtually nothing else other than spices and deliciousness.  I ate both of them as I always do, along with coleslaw, french fries, green beans, cottage cheese and applebutter, pickles, succotash, hush puppies and rolls and of course ice cream for dessert.  I went for a walk after dinner along their beautiful grounds to the duck ponds.  I wanted to bring this baby into the world.  I felt fine and contented and very full!  I woke up the next morning at about 3.45 am with a little twinge and after about 15 minutes, my contractions were about 15 minutes apart so I called Dr. Lowen.  He told me to hold back until they were about 5 to 10 minutes apart.  He then called me back about 5 minutes later because his wife tapped him on the shoulder telling him that she thought he wasn't aware that he spoke to a patient who was in labour because he was asleep.  He asked if he told me the right things to do.  Very entertaining, but within that five minutes, my contractions were now coming fast and furious.  He told me to get to the hospital and when there they would call him to come.  We called my neighbour who came to stay with the other two girls. She saw I was in active labour, so all the jokes she was ready to dish out, she decided to keep to herself.  We drove to the hospital and oh my what a drive that was, I would say speed up or if going over a speed bump, slow down.  I was holding Gabriella in and I knew this little beauty was ready to enter my life.  We got to the hospital and they were asking us to fill in these forms, probably thinking I was a first time nervous mom. When examining me, they realised this baby was coming.  They called my doctor or so they thought, but they actually called my friend's father by mistake.  My friend Robin knew Gab was coming before mostly everyone.  He told them to call Dr. Lowen.  Knowing that he wouldn't make it, another doctor who was there for another patient delivered Gabriella.  They got me into the delivery room and 5 minutes later she was born!  She was anxious and ready to meet her mom and dad!  Gabriella was born at 4.59am on the 25th of June, 1989, my beautiful baby, my last!  Dr. Lowen never made it, he was my photographer after the birth!  It wasn't even 30 minutes after she was born that I asked for a sandwich!  I was hungry, I was over the moon and I had another love of my life!

My mother loved her food.  She was overweight and she was also a diabetic.  She didn't understand the seriousness of her disease, despite nutrition classes and stern talks from doctors and family.  She enjoyed eating and she loved all of the wrong things.  Her diabetes didn't surface until her 50's, so her love of food was a lifetime of passion and a hard habit to break.  Even after my father died, my mother continued to make Sunday dinners like nobody else could.  She loved going out to eat with her children and grandchildren.  She liked junk and she liked gourmet.  I don't think my mother had a discerning palette, she just loved to eat and she enjoyed the wonderful times that were centred around meals.  I clearly come by that love of food honestly and so do my children.  My mother sadly died far too young as well.  She had lung cancer, was in remission for 3 years and then when the cancer resurfaced, she lived only 3 weeks.  It wasn't until the last few days that my mother stopped eating.  She still wanted shrimp salad sandwiches from Maria's, she still had yearnings for some of her favourite things and because she was terminal, the doctors let her eat what she wanted and would adjust her insulin accordingly.  It was when my mom's appetite waned that I knew I was going to lose her.  We couldn't even entice her with a milkshake.  No appetite for my mom was wrong and unreasonable and my wonderful mother was dying.  She never made it home from the hospital, my mother died peacefully at the age of 71.  She never became unrecognisable, she never lost her dignity, she died the lady she was as she lived.  She left behind a wonderful legacy.  She taught me how to cook, how to enjoy food, how to love life.  Life for us is food and food for us is love!  I ate at my mom's Shiva house.  I don't know why, but I did.  I still fell apart, I still shut down, I still screwed up, but I ate.

There have been so many occasions where food has been a variable in my moods.  Celebrations, sadness, love, they all contribute.  My second marriage was an occasion with an abundance of food and drink because I wanted our friends and family to know how lucky, how happy and how very much in love I was with the wonderful man I married! It was a true celebration!  When our oldest daughter Charlotte (Ian's firstborn) got married, the food at her wedding showed the same!  It was a wonderful day of happiness and love shared with all!  Even her wedding cake was a cake of cheese because it is a passion of Charlotte's and she wanted to share that with every guest.  When our first granddaughter Grace was born, we sat around the cafeteria waiting for her arrival with food and drink and right after she was born, the entire family went to the pub to continue the celebrations.  Ian and I shared a pizza at 4am at a hotel in London in Grace's honour.  With everything that happens in life, food is involved, good or bad! 

When I was younger, I tended not to eat with stress.  I am now a woman nearly in my mid fifties and now I do eat with stress.  I eat Cadbury's Whole Nut, I eat Ben and Jerry's ice cream, I'll eat fruit and veg, I'll eat food, I just eat.  I also eat without stress.  I eat Cadbury's Whole Nut, I eat Ben and Jerry's ice cream, I'll eat fruit and veg, I'll eat food, I just eat!  The difference is, when stressed, I don't think I enjoy what I am putting in my mouth, I think I do it to preoccupy my mind, when I am not stressed, I get such delight from all things food!  When stressed, I eat the Ben and Jerry's from the carton, when not, I carefully spoon my Chunky Monkey into a bowl, slice a banana, cut up fresh strawberries and cherries and smother it in Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.  I mmmm and mmmmm at every mouthful.

There have been lots of ups and downs in my life.  I have come through them all a stronger and better person.  I love life, I love people, I love my work, I love, love, love my family and I love food!  Food has got me through a lot and will see me through a lot more.  My relationship with food is a love/love relationship and it gets stronger every day!  Moods and food - a great combination!

As always, thanks for reading y'all!
Lisa AKA The Yummy Yank

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