What I love most about food is how it brings people together. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, high school reunions, retirements, and farewell send-offs: no matter the occasion, tears of joy or sorrow, food is there. It’s not exactly what is on the table that makes it so special (don’t get me wrong, I sure as hell love what’s there), but rather the celebration and warmth of sharing that meal, of breaking bread together, that means so much more.
In Chinese culture, we take reunions seriously. On festivities like Chinese New Years, which, by the way lasts 23 days. Our tables are round so that our loved ones can gather around together to share the meal – no corner seats and everyone equal distances from the abundance of dishes in the middle. The more crowded the better; meant it was cozy and more love to share. Abundance (both food and head count) is key, especially when welcoming the New Year. After all, it’s important to start off on a good note. Point is, food is so deeply rooted in the culture of our everyday lives. Not just at grand annual festivities, but on an everyday basis. Whether it be grabbing a coffee with an old friend (Starbucks tall pumpkin spice latte $4.25), or being welcomed home after a long day at work with a home cooked meal. It is where we build connections and form memories; it is an essential ingredient in our sense of community.
But when you are on a tight (that’s an understatement, I really should be saying “impossible”) budget, it all becomes a luxury and privilege. One that most of us take for granted, which, oddly to say, we have the choice to do so. On $18 a week, social engagements are out of the question. End result? Social exclusion. Not just from food-related occasions, but food cues are everywhere –theatre and malls, even Skytrain advertisements. Even when I thought I could distract my hunger from watching a bit of Netflix, the episode of friends was about “Unagi”… my stomach started grumbling.
Today, I declined two invitations for this week, and will call up an old friend of six years to cancel my lunch plans for this Saturday. I ate lunch (the worst soup I had ever had; and I usually make a mean butternut squash soup with caramelized onions and apples, spiced with wintery flavours of bay leaves, hint of nutmeg and turmeric, then rounded with some fresh blended cashew cream… if I had access to my pantry that is; but this? A disgrace to soup) at my desk and hated my dinner as I ate next to mum, whilst my colleagues were experiencing a gastronomic adventure in an exotic Lebanese restaurant. Don’t get me wrong; it is not that I dislike company, but that her meal was so much more than mine. Freshly made dumplings and a beautiful fall harvest soup. I took my bites as small as I could to try and make it last (lentil butternut squash tofu patty in two slices of whole wheat bread covered in margarine and grilled on the stove; no condiments so I took some of the crushed tomatoes I saved from the can I had opened to make the lentil tomato soup). It killed me smelling her food but eating mine, and despite my efforts in trying to make it last, I finished before she was half way through. My salivary glands were hyperactive and I had to excuse myself from the dining room, it would be too hard to watch her eat and no cheat this challenge.
My day’s worth of food:
|Breakfast||Lunch||Dinner||Per Meal||Per Day|
|Carbohydrate (g)||55||36||58||149||30 to 60||90 to 120|
|Protein (g)||2||9||19||30||15 to 20||45 to 60|
|Canada’s Food Guide Servings|
|Vegetables/Fruit||0||2.4||0.4||2.8||7 to 8|
|Grains||2||0.2||2.1||4.3||6 to 7|
|Meat and Alternatives||0||0.3||0.5||0.8||2|
|Dairy and Alternatives||0.3||0||0||0.3||2|
|Added Fat||0||1||1.3||2.3||2 to 3|
Total: 999kcal (50-60% estimated caloric needs).
How did I feel today? A little sad I’m missing out on a whole lot of fun with close ones… Sorry friends, I’ll definitely be there next time! – That’s something I have the privilege to say, because for me, this challenge ends in 3 days. But for many, the end date is unknown. A little bit of despair – what I love most about food is no longer an element of my life. And I’d say a little bitter, how is it that food is so available, yet one can still be this food insecure? Seems a little like the world is taunting me.
Activity? No thanks, lethargic. #HappyInternationalSlothDay? I bailed on gym today, my calves were hurting too much from Day 2. Usually I can get on my runners th-rice a week, but the lack of energy is too much for the gym today. Plus, I feel like I’m waddling up and down the stairs cause my muscles are in pain. Honestly never experienced this after workouts before. Total Steps: 11001.
Seriously, thoughts of food seem to be chasing and consuming me. The irony.