06 January 2010

Food and faith

So cozy inside.

There's a storm brewing outside -- it got worse by the minute as I dropped my child at school and returned home after. Nothing falling, yet. And the ground covered with awful ice patches everywhere. Hips will shatter, should snow fall on these lumpy slicks lurking all around.

So: my next writing goal is revising and extending the rest of my current novel. She is poised on the brink of a sting operation, in catching him at his own game. I need to work out the details about her MO (modus operandi is the Latin phrase called out by the acronym).

And then a turning point, where she realizes she doesn't want any part of his game, and mirroring his behavior to trap him at what he will do anyway is not only unfair but also morally wrong and she can't do that another minute or her life might as well just be declared wasted. She has to live her life instead. She can't keep on reacting to his madness; she wastes all her own resources trying to keep up with him. And she never can, because he's miserable with what he's become but can't give up being a bully with all the power it brings him.

That's the emotional plot line. Now to scene-out the mechanics. That's what's next.


It is sad to lose a generation. There is always the death of what might have been for those in a branch that chose to live far from their mothers instead of near. So many stories we never heard, never let ourselves hang around long enough to get to know everyone and be a part of.

That happened before I knew it when my maternal grandmother died a few years ago. But that was never offered. She wasn't accessible in any real way -- she'd just blow into town every few years. Or once we went to see her on her turf, in Barcelona, and she led us to the place listed in our Let's Go book as the most rock-bottom cheap but decent food in all of the city, where you could eat a hearty meal for $4 in the midst of all the hoity-toity tapas bars that line the streets and keep the city humming every night. We ate there with her apologizing for the place but the food was good and cheap and we bought hers. I remember meeting her for lunch at the Emporium, across the street from where I worked in San Francisco, near the Powell and Market cable-car turnaround, back when there was still a Woolworth's with a lunch counter and blue-plate specials. I think I harbored a notion that she would take me shopping, but she had the opposite idea and I bought her a scarf in the end. She'd found the least-expensive thing in there and made me buy her one. I had a job, after all, so I was surprised but gracious about it, if a tiny bit resentful. I got one shopping spree out of my grandparents, but have never had parents or grandparents who blew into town to take me shopping. Sigh; some dreams die hard.

I think of people like my grandmother, who seemed afraid to consume much to stay alive, and how my mother does the same thing now, and how others in my sphere are trying to teach me about self-negation, sacrificing for the good of all. My heart reaction to that is no! I know I have entered into phases of food paralysis, when my ideas about what is healthy change and I see food outside that sphere as something less than nourishing. It is a form of anorexia concerned with foreign or polluting foods. I still have it, when we go to someone's house and aren't comfortable with what they eat. My kid abhors McDonald's and I'm with her.

Not long ago I read and started passing around a funny memoir, Jenny Traig's Devil in the Details, about a woman hitting puberty and entering into a life of scrupulosity, obsessiveness over process and correctness. Traig was half Jewish, and at the moment puberty struck, she dove into her religion, especially around food preparation and bodily functions. She had obsessive-compulsive disorder and this was where she expressed her depth of feeling and commitment: to eating correctly and handling food correctly, in observance of Jewish dietary laws about mixing meat and dairy and keeping a truly Kosher kitchen. (And bathroom.)

There was that Aha! when I read about her challenges; I remembered trying a diet when I was 13 that involved a lot of hamburger and pineapple, and thinking everything else was bad and having a hard time starting back up eating other foods again. And then learning about people's challenges with gluten, I wanted to believe it could help our kid with her mood swings, or could cure me of inflexibility and joint pain. And suddenly wheat seemed to be looming everywhere. We caught out a waitress who said no, hoisin sauce doesn't have wheat in it. We Googled it on our little phone.

But for a while I didn't believe in wheat. Now I am just more aware of it as one grain we eat. I tire of it and have to make something with this blend of gluten-free flours I've developed. I like to take occasional breaks from our monoculture wheat culture. So I make banana bread with gluten-free flour. Crepes with buckwheat flour. Those beautiful panisse sticks with garbanzo flour.

Sometimes with food as with nothing else, it's hard to know what to believe in.

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