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David Holub

Food is a source of so much joy, but also misadventure, shame

Ar 170519552
Adobe Stock
Ar 170519552
Adobe Stock

Food is our lifeblood; it is sustenance. It’s something we all have in common, often central to some of our greatest memories and experiences. Because of this, food can sometimes be a source of shame, regret, and embarrassment. Think back in your life and count the times you felt these emotions for eating too much, eating something you shouldn’t have, or – you know you’ve done it – lying about food.

Bring up this topic with a group of good friends and you’ll trade stories for hours. I did that recently, and the stories flowed. Here’s a sampling of some of mine fit for print:

In ninth grade, I walked alone to the grocery store on a quest to buy lemonade for an impending pickup basketball game with a friend. Since I was there, I thought I’d buy a donut as well. Once I had already placed the lone donut in the donut bag, I realized I didn’t have enough money for the lemonade and the donut. The only solution I could muster was to find an empty aisle (I believe it was the diaper aisle), look around suspiciously, and then slam the donut into my face, devouring it in three bites over the course of 14 seconds.

I used to go to breakfast with friends/colleagues once a week. At the time, I was about 30 pounds heavier than my current I-really-should-drop-another-20-pounds frame. Looking at the menu, I asked the server if a certain dish was “enough for one person.” She looked at me, looked at the menu, looked back at me and said, “For you ... no.”

In grade school, once a summer my friends and I got to go to a special park in Denver, which had a stream meandering through. One year, we spotted watermelons lying in the stream and figured that they were not placed there by families to chill but were abandoned for some reason. We proceeded to smash them until some incredulous father demanded to know what in God’s name were we doing.

The best thing about traveling alone is getting takeout and pigging out on the bed while you watch trashy real-crime TV shows (advice, you never go bag-to-sheet ... Always put down a towel). I was in Albuquerque staying at a hotel with a Mexican restaurant attached (a dangerous combination). I already knew I was ordering an embarrassingly large amount for one person. I was embarrassed further when I discovered the restaurant had understandably put two sets of silverware in the bag.

One Thanksgiving, I invited eight orphaned friends over for dinner, preparing all the food myself. I was running woefully late and began rushing hectically. While carving the turkey, I sliced my finger quite nicely, but with everyone hungry and waiting ... I squelched the pain and just kept going, keeping my finger lifted and separated as much as possible, hoping nobody checked up on me.

I was at a going-away party one evening after having been at an all-day bird count since the predawn hours (don’t ask) with very little food all day. After imbibing all evening as any adult human might and eating nothing but Velveeta cheese dip, my stomach, how should I say, was not agreeing with me. On the verge of disposing of my stomach’s contents and rightfully embarrassed for being the only partygoer in shambles, I decided that if I just went out to the privacy of my car – parked conveniently in the front of the house – put the seat back, got some fresh air, and laid down for a bit, all would be better. So I went out to my car to rest. Soon, I felt the need to throw up. But when I opened the door to stick my head out, what I didn’t anticipate was the motion-detecting floodlight that came on. Not only that, but the living room where everyone was hanging out had an enormous picture window that faced straight onto the driveway, which I was now sullying, putting me in a spotlight for all to see. This car door/barfing/floodlight spectacle occurred exactly three times. It was also late enough that people were starting to leave, walking by my car on the way to theirs. The one person who apparently did not see what I’d been up to remarked as she walked past, “Ooh, looks like someone spilled a big thing of cheese dip.”

So those are mine. Now, let’s hear some of yours.