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27 February, 2008

You Are What You Eat

I find myself, for complicated reasons, thinking of my brother today, and differences between us.

It's become clear to me over time that food was something like my mother's second-favorite locus of control. Where I've heard of families in which children were required to at least sample some portion of what was put on their plates, or had control over how much of everything was put there but were expected to finish what they selected, I had no choice about how much there was, and was expected to finish it. My mother finished her meals with the promptness of someone from a working-class family who grew up with three brothers, my father somewhat less promptly, and I was frequently abandoned, often with my brother, at the table, because supervising my staring at the strong-tasting food was probably as boring as being constrained to the table until it was gone.

My brother ... opted out.

I don't know how he did it. He just refused to participate; by the time he was six or seven he was making his own small dinners of things he was willing to eat, and somehow he was permitted to do so. These days my father agonises some about whether letting him do that led to the development of his gastrointestinal disorder or whether my brother's refusal to eat what the rest of the family was eating derived from early attempts on his part to find food he could digest without pain, before his illness surged to its current level.

I don't know how he did it. I don't know how he ducked the whole nexus of control.

And my picky, stubborn brother grew into a giant foodie, full of exploration and joy and gastronomic enthusiasm, something which both makes his disorder kick up to a different level of suffering and makes it that much easier for him to find interesting food that he can safely eat.

And I, stuck in the control games about what I would eat and how much, grew into someone with weird neuroses about food and control, remained picky and conservative in my food preferences, and am still nauseated by cauliflower.

1 comment:

Ailbhe said...

Rob's family had similar eat-it-all-up rules, including sitting at the table forever, and he isn't foodie at all. Food == fuel.