A lot of women seem to have a very complicated relationship with food. A friend of mine was talking about it the other day and was feeling bad that she has an emotional connection to food. This person is an intelligent and attractive woman. She both acknowledges and understands that she needs to eat to be healthy but then seems to struggle because she isn’t a sylph. She knows, as again, we all do rationally, that being underweight is as bad for your health as being overweight – she is neither. She has never expressed any desire whatsoever to be a size zero. And yet……
It’s a worse open secret than Harvey Weinstein (allegedly) being unable to keep his hands to himself that the pictures of women we see in the media are not true representations of the women themselves. I am not saying that Angelina Jolie should have a photo of her first thing in the morning splattered all across the papers or that Kate Winslet be subjected to being interviewed hair scraped back whilst she doing washing up – we all want to look our best and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – these ladies work in an industry where looking your best is a seller. The thing is, they’re beautiful anyway. If they walked into a room with the rest of us, they would be so far the most beautiful-looking person in the room that everyone would turn to look at them. I bet Julia Roberts’ husband has to pinch himself every single morning because he can’t believe his luck. They are just much better looking than the rest of us and no amount of photoshopping will make that more or less true.
The other thing is – what is wrong with having an emotional connection to food? Why is that such a bad thing and why do so many women seem to beat themselves up about it? My sister doesn’t buy biscuits because she says that they sing to her from the kitchen whilst she is trying to watch a film in the lounge and she finds the noise very distracting until she eats them. Another friend does not buy chocolate. She says that even if she put chocolate in the loft, and she was down the bottom of the garden, it would call to her and she would be up there to get it out. I admit that I have never heard anyone having a similar issue with fruit and vegetables, but there must be an inbetween. My sister and my friend deny themselves chocolate and biscuits on a ongoing basis. And that must make them feel even worse about all food. It’s just not on.
In around 1965, a young woman aged seventeen had just passed her driving test. Her father, somewhat reluctantly, had let her borrow the family car. Cars were a relatively new and very expensive thing to own at that time and not being particularly wealthy it would have been a considerable spend. Nevertheless, he loved his daughter and against his better judgment, let her borrow the car. (Yes, the story is going to go the way you think it is).
The daughter returned home a few hours later and the conversation went roughly as follows:
Father : “Hello. How was your trip?”
Daughter : “To be perfectly honest, Dad, it was a trip of two halves.”
Father : “Oh really, why was that?”
Daughter : “Well, you will have noted, Father, that I have returned to the family fold on foot, whereas it would not have escaped your notice given the tense discussion before you handed me the keys, that I left at the wheel of your new automobile.”
Father : [uneasy now] “Yes, I had noticed. Do you mind me asking where it is?”
Daughter : [speaking quickly] “It’s coming in a minute…..[mutters]… on a recovery truck…..”
Father : [string of expletives]
Daughter : “But the good news is that when I walking home, (yes I am absolutely fine by the way), I went past a bakery and I have bought you your favourite – an egg custard.”
Yep, my mother yet again. An endless source of material. It will not surprise you to learn, that the proffered pastry did not improve my Grandad’s mood, regardless of it being his cake of choice. It probably took until I was born over ten year’s later for my Grandad to be able to see the funny side. By the time I was old enough to understand, it was a story he always told at family gatherings to raucous laughter – the time when my Mum wrote off his car but bought him an egg custard.
My Grandad dropped dead when I was twenty. I loved him with the whole of my heart and at that point in my life my heart felt broken. Now, twenty years on, every time I eat or make an egg custard, I think of him. Me and my sisters gather round, bickering over who has the biggest slice and share the memory and our love for our Grandad over a baked item, the monetary value of which is negligible. It is as if his hand is still touching ours through the years that will forever separate us.
My head tells me that maybe I could be shed a few pounds if I laid off the odd egg custard here and there. And if I was doing it every day, I should. But what about my heart? Why feel bad about looking after your heart? We all need to remember – loved ones, friends, people who love or loved us once – and that is a good thing. And things that connect us to those memories are a good thing, even if there is a risk that they may make us a bit more squidgy round the middle. It comforts me to know that whatever lies in my future, just one small cake can remind me that in my past, and by one person at least, I was adored once too.
We all need to know that.