In many ways I am my mother’s daughter, and even my grandmother’s granddaughter . Blonde, petite, outspoken, art loving, the list goes on. But in one aspect, I am and always will be, my father’s daughter. And that is my undying and voracious love of food. At the end of September we depart for two glorious weeks in Italy with good friends. Our plans include little else than taking in the World Championships of cycling through the streets of Florence, hiking the trail of the Cinque Terre and driving the fields and hills of Tuscany. As our friend Wade simply puts it, “drinking all the wine and eating all the pasta.”
I can’t point to a specific memory of when my interest in food started. My parents tell stories of taking me to the local pizza place in our Queens, NY neighborhood and feeding me the cheese off the pie. I guess you could say not much has changed. Family vacations in our house were always measured by what and where we ate. To my mother’s chagrin we were making grand plans for dinner before breakfast was even started. Summer weekends at our lake cabin in Vermont were punctuated by feasts my father would spend hours preparing and an equal amount of time enjoying.
I can say that the turning point in my own understanding, and appreciation, of food came when I started chemotherapy. I felt like I had lost complete control of what was happening. Then I realized what I could control was what I ate. I devoured books on which foods have healing properties and which are anti-inflammtory. For that six month period I avoided white sugar, white flour, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and a host of other things. (Admittedly towards the end I had a few mint chocolate milkshakes as my weight was dropping while my nausea was sky rocketing.) Though my doctor did not advise any of this, I truly believe it had a positive affect on the way my body handled those eight-hour sessions of being pumped with chemicals.
Anyone who knows me is aware that most of the foods listed above made their way back into my diet. I do remain a huge believer in the importance of food quality. My interest post chemo shifted slightly from healing to sustainability. Barbara Kingsolver’s, A Year of Eating Locally had me surfing the internet for jobs or internships on organic farms, while Jonathan Safran Foer’s, Eating Animals kept me up at night and to this day mostly pescatarian. The food industry continues to fascinate and terrify me.
Ironman training has brought a new importance to food as fuel which I am still learning to navigate. It seems that all the things we were taught, i.e. fat is bad, don’t apply and are actually quite the opposite when it comes to endurance sports. The amount of writing and thought on what and when and how we should eat to perform at our best is frankly exhausting. I try my best to keep things “clean” but even on race week, I eat ice cream.
Through the years one thing that has remained constant is the power of a great meal to bring people together. I understand that sounds cliché but it is something I strongly believe. I love that my friends know when they come over for The Bachelor, or just for good conversation, that they will be welcomed with open arms and well fed. I love that my brother knows he can text me for instructions on how to cook salmon for his GF on Valentine’s Day. And I love the way a glass of wine with a great cheese can make the world instantly slow down. Even if just for a little while.