Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Growing Up Part II - Food

(This is part of a series of posts. See here for the introduction.)

I love food. I really do. I don't mean that in any kind of snobby way either, believe me. I'm not some kind of "foodie." (Can we make that the last time anyone ever uses that word? Thanks!). Almost any kind of food will do because it's all pretty great. The only food I really hate is asparagus. Honestly, asparagus tastes like what I imagine Satan's armpit tastes like; which is something I really try not to imagine very often. Even if I somehow manage to choke some asparagus down, it's still not over. Later that day while enjoying an otherwise pleasant restroom retreat, it comes back to haunt you like the Ghost of Bad Meals Past. I don't care how much salt or garlic you put on it (by the way, those are like the Duct Tape and WD-40 of the culinary world; they can fix nearly anything), the asparagus taste will manage to sneak out and kill every other flavor.

Scientific proof.
As for the rest of the food kingdom(?) it's all pretty darn tasty. Sure, I like some foods more than others but I have a fairly laid back palette and am willing to at least try most anything. I wasn't always like this though. I distinctly remember many nights around the dinner table growing up where I'd be the only one sitting at the table for what seemed like hours after everyone else had left, staring at a plate of broccoli or peas. Other than vegetables though, I really wasn't picky. I once ate an entire container of fried chicken from Kroger while drinking a quart of eggnog just because it's what was available. At an old job one time, somebody brought in a 5 gallon bucket of chocolate icing (couldn't tell you why) so I got myself a bowl full of it with a big cup of half and half (there was no milk) and downed the whole thing. I have countless stories of ridiculous foods in unthinkable quantities consumed by my friends and me. Not as some kind of dare or badge of honor, just as a regular course of the evening.

Typical college midnight snack.
Most days now, I just eat normal food, like a normal person. I even eat vegetables and fruit on a regular basis. It's not that I can't eat crappy food like I used to. On the contrary, I'm a grown up now - I CAN EAT WHATEVER I WANT. It's one of the most amazing things about being a grown up. I could have strawberry waffles covered in Nutella and syrup at every meal for a month if I wanted to. Nobody can stop me. If I decide ice cream, hamburgers and beer for brunch sound good, I can make that happen.  Just last month I got hungry while we were watching TV so, at 10:30 at night, I ate a very large plate of microwavable taquitos and drank two glasses of eggnog (if you can't tell, I like eggnog). But that's a huge exception to my normal eating habits these days. 10 years ago that would have been "Thursday." You know what I ate last Thursday? Chicken and broccoli with mashed potatoes and a glass of water.

I now pose the question of the week: how did I get here?

It happened slowly. When I was younger, food was what I ate when I was hungry. That was it. That was really its only purpose. My younger brain simply computed "hungry" + "food" = "not hungry" and I moved on with my day. "Food" didn't really have any other pros or cons. As long as it was something that would cancel out "hungry", I was happy. But when you grow up, you realize that not all food is created equal. Filling my stomach with chocolate icing is significantly different than filling that same space with chicken and broccoli. It's not like I didn't know this information when I was 20; I just didn't care. Something was triggered in me to suddenly look at food as more than just something to cancel out "hungry." It has a far more multifaceted function to it now and I see it in a list of various pros and cons with every meal. "This has a good amount of protein in it which is nice because I'll stay full longer, but it has more calories than I'd really like it to. Although, I could use the carbs in this meal over here since we'll be going for a run later. And this salad has everything I need in it but, you know, IT'S A SALAD and I'm not a woodland creature." The fact that salad is even an option in my diet these days is astounding. The only way I would have eaten a salad 10 years ago is if you replaced the salad leaves with roast beef and the tomato with brats (but keep the croutons, onions and bacon bits please. And add more cheese for love of disregarded cholesterol.)

Maybe it's getting married, maybe it's having kids. It's likely my taste buds have just worn out over the years and I can no longer tell how terrible squash actually tastes. Maybe it's just that my "try not to die before you're 40" instinct has kicked in (that's Survival Instinct's sad cousin). Whatever the reason, I eat plenty of healthy food on purpose now. And you know what? It's pretty good. I feel good almost all the time and I'm hopefully setting a good example for my kids. I'll even eat vegetables. Well, except asparagus. There's no vitamin on earth they could put in to that plant that would make me choke down it's disgusting taste. You know, at least until I'm 60 years old and writing a blog about how great asparagus is.

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