Ted has warned me before that food isn’t love, but I’m pretty sure he’s wrong. What can the buttery goodness of a flaky croissant or the salty creaminess of mashed potatoes be if they aren’t the ultimate embodiment of love? Or, if not love, then comfort. And last Thursday night, I was seeking comfort.
Nothing had gone particularly wrong that day. Work had been fine, if a tad dull. I had gotten into a huge fight with Boof in the morning about consideration (or someone’s lack thereof) and then a big fight with Ted just after that about good parenting (or someone’s lack thereof), but that bitterness had long worn off. I was hungry, because Ted and I had been counting calories to shave off some of our holiday weight, but the workday was over and I was looking forward to dinner.
But on the drive home from work, I heard an NPR story on hunger during the holidays. The gist of the report was that, while this season for many Americans is synonymous with stuffing ourselves silly with food, the most wonderful time of the year really isn’t so great for others. The story proceeded to detail how some kids only ever get a decent meal through their school’s free or reduced-price meal program because their families simply can’t afford to keep their pantries at home stocked. These kids often dread winter break because they’ll likely not get a square meal the entire time school is out.
I had known for a while that this problem existed. When Boof was in first grade, for example, his teacher told me that the staff often slipped extra food to a certain student to ensure he wouldn’t go hungry at home. More recently, a mom who worked for an anti-hunger nonprofit mentioned how glad she was that the school system hadn’t called a snow day because a lot of kids would have gone hungry. Until the NPR story, however, I’d long forgotten about this sad reality.
By the time I arrived home, I had fallen into a deep funk. I had also suffered a mini identity crisis: What was I doing, whining about my life on a blog when so many children were suffering?? How could I best make a positive impact on this world?
At this point, the philanthropic-minded would have promptly donated money to an organization doing good work on the matter. The activist-minded may have decided then and there to start volunteering at the local food pantry.
But me? Keep in mind that my coping mechanisms were already shot after a day of exercising discipline over my calorie intake. So, rather than going the way of the philanthropist or the activist, I went the way of… food. Lots of it. Two extra pieces of garlic bread with my dinner. A slice of apple pie for dessert. And then an after-dinner snack of two croissants—just because they were there, they looked good and I felt lousy.
Yes, that’s right. Just as President Bush had told the American people that the best thing they could do after 9/11 was to go shopping, I ate upon hearing a heartbreaking story about children going hungry.
If it means anything, I didn’t feel so great after. Let’s just say I overcomforted myself.