One in a series of posts on my struggles with maintaining a healthier weight, starting in early 2019 and working into the present day
#WEIGHT: 246 LBS IN MARCH OF 2019
The Weekend Father
For me, food and family have always gone hand in hand.
When I was a kid, weekends were for eating. My father was a doctor who was often ghostlike on the weekdays, rising early in the morning before anyone else to make his hospital rounds. He didn’t even grab breakfast, just dressed in the dim morning light (or total darkness in the winter) and disappeared behind the wheel of his latest Buick.
When he came home in the evenings, he seldom ate with us kids. He’d chat with our mother for a bit while changing his clothes, then pour himself a Scotch or two. It was often after having his drinks that mom would serve him dinner. After dinner, he’d go up up to bed and read books, usually the latest blockbuster thriller, until falling asleep. The next say, he’d do it all again, again and again. This routine didn’t allow for a lot of conversation, or even interaction, with the kids.
But the weekends were something different. Yes, he’d again disappear in the early mornings, though this time to play golf. But in the afternoons, something grand would happen. Dad would arrive bearing a feast in white paper bags, big cardboard buckets, and towers of sprawling, savory smelling boxes.
The Santa Claus of Carbs
It was the best part of my week, when the old man–still wearing his tan bucket hat and dressed in an Izod golf shirt and plaid golf pants–came home like the Santa Claus of Carbs. The first boxes to flip open were the ones from the Di Camillo Bakery and Top’s Supermarket.
Glazed donuts, donuts dripping in chocolate sauce, cream-filled donuts, maybe a buttery croissant if you wanted something “healthy.” And those were just the appetizers!
Then there were the cinnamon buns, the chocolate chip cookies, the oatmeal raisin cookies, apple turnovers, raspberry turnovers, bear claws, puffs, Danishes, and, the pièce de résistance, chocolate eclairs.
Oh, I’m sure there were other pastries in there whose names I didn’t know but whose redolence and appearance would transport me to those blissful Saturday afternoons.
After raiding those boxes, there were still the glazed sugars and chocolate icings and custard creams stuck to the bottoms of bakers papers, doilies and of the cardboard boxes themselves. I would lick and suck the sugary remnants off the paper. I would try to draw up what I could from the boxes with licked, wet fingers.
Finger-Licking Fast Food Feasts
Then would come the fast food feast. I remember two primary versions: Kentucky Fried Chicken and Arby’s. Both were a treat, partly because in Lewiston, NY there were none of the traditional fast-food chains in those days. My father, fresh off the Niagara Falls Golf Course, would score our main course up in “the city.”
Keep in mind that the Falls, as we called it, was well-known to our father but something akin to a foreign land to my younger brother and me. That’s partly because Mom, who had a phobia of driving up Lewiston Hill or across any bridges at all, almost never took us there.
So, in those days, a big bucket of KFC seemed blessed by the gods brought down from the escarpment to us low-lander Lewiston mortals by the typically remote, almost Zeus-like figure of our old man.
The family tore into those these wonderfully greasy, finger-licking-good capon carcasses as if they were sacrifices to familial bliss, which in a way they were. It was a bit of a joke in our family that we’d leave nothing left but the barest of bones.
Food and Family Bliss
Only later in life did I discover that “normal people” didn’t eat chicken down all the way to the nub like that, the way that piranha ate hapless human victims in all those reruns of old Tarzan movies we watched on the weekends.
But why am I going into such detail about our family’s weekend eating habits? Because this is how food becomes part of our mental and emotional makeup. It isn’t just about the food itself but about our memories of family gatherings, times of euphoria and a sense of belonging, a time when we could put away our little sorrows and insecurities for a time and thoroughly enjoy one another’s company.
This is what food means to us. Or, at least, to me. Bonding, harmony, warm recollections, peace, laughter and joy.
It isn’t only food we get addicted to. It is everything the food represents, both consciously and subconsciously. It is little wonder, then, that we eat when we feel stressed, lonely, or just sad. We not only crave the pleasure of the food itself but all the other pleasures associated with our family and friends, celebrations and holidays. At least for some of us, food itself is happiness.
Featured image: Pastries at the Bellagio Patisserie at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada from Calgary Reviews, Wikimedia Commons