food and grief: trying to find my taste for food again
In case no one noticed, I haven't posted a food review in awhile because sometimes it isn't about the food. My father passed at the beginning of the month and since then it's been hard to muster up the interest to post something pithy about my latest bite. Thus, I thought it might help to emotionally work some of it out by writing a few things down since expressing myself verbally is occasionally difficult, even with those close to me.
It's been three weeks now since I got the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night from big sis. When parents get older that thought is always in the back of your mind, particularly after my father reached his 80's and had to go into rest home care due to some health issues. As soon as the phone rings, somehow you just know before you pick it up and hear your sister sobbing uncontrollably on the other end. Most calls after midnight are just bad news. Even though he'd had some health issues, they all just seemed part of the aging process and when I got the call, it was still a bit of a shock. We always know it is a possibility but when it does finally happen, you still feel unprepared.
The next thing I know, I'm throwing clothes in a bag and running through a mental checklist of what I need to take while the SO tries to get me on the next flight back to NC. A 5am flight with a stopover in Houston and then to RDU and it all goes by in a drowsy blur of exhaustion and grief. Not to mention having to make phone calls to distant relatives while running through the airport to catch your connector scarfing down an overpriced sandwich and a Dt. Mtn. Dew to try and keep my energy up and my stomach from turning over on what turned into a very bumpy flight.
From there it becomes you and your sis muddling through a seemingly endless list of things that need to be taken care of. Tears, sure, but there is a seeming comfort in having something to pour your focus into to keep from fully falling apart. Even if it includes making funeral arrangements, a 3 1/2 hour mental endurance test of saying yes or no to an array of choices and trying not to be overwhelmed by a roomful of coffin choices. After that, we stand in front of the funeral home feeling exhausted. She asks if I'm hungry, I say, I could eat and we find ourselves at a seafood shack eating fried fish and shrimp. Not saying much and not really tasting anything as it goes in my mouth. I could have been eating cardboard and it wouldn't have mattered, I didn't seem to care.
This was a totally different reaction than when my mother passed suddenly 7 years ago. Then, I ate for comfort and felt constantly hungry needing to quell or quash whatever feelings I had with pizza, cake, bbq, donuts, etc. That's the thing with food in the South, there is always something deep fried or sweet within easy reach, eating to feel better is more than a hobby where I'm from, it's what drives most interactions between people, especially families. This time with pops it was different, I didn't seem to care if I ate anything even though I knew I should.
After his service, the ladies of his church (which is the picture on the post) were nice enough to set up a pot luck reception and they all supplied food. I made sure to try some of all that was brought in a vary Southern array of casseroles both chicken and corn, fried things and desserts I might otherwise have totally enjoyed. I just smiled politely saying it tasted great and thanked them all even though at the time, I really couldn't tell one dish from the next. A big eating Southerner passing up the chance to eat all the home cooked potluck food they could would be a cause for concern itself if not for the whole funeral thing.
It's not that his death hit me harder than my mothers. I mean we were close-ish, especially after mom passed and his health declined. I tried to get back as often as I could to visit and we talked on the phone, mostly about weather and sports, but that was his comfort zone and so I went with it. Parents are like a fall back option you can rely on if things go awry. They were there to help with a place to stay or being able to just pick up the phone and call them as a sounding or complaining board whenever needed. But now with both of them gone I felt kind of untethered and adrift and it has seeped into most everything I do. Plus, food is so intertwined in my family memories from recipes to gatherings, it was always there for eating and sharing. It makes it hard to think about without devolving into a "remember when we..." and trying to get back to the "feels" or "joy of eating" again.
It also comes on the heels of being unfortunately unemployed for the last few months so motivation to pull myself out has been challenging. The SO has been super supportive, even if I don't tell them that enough, part of the hard to verbalize thingy. Writing it out seems to be easier and once I start it just becomes texterrhia and keeps on flowing. I'm trying to look at this as a step in rediscovering things and some of the happiness I got from trying to track down the new, now, next flavor bomb of food. This has been a blogging hobby for over 7 years now and I did get some joy from discovery to photos to tasting to writing about it all.
To that end, me and the SO are also hitting up Burning Man (again) this year and to be honest, it might be coming at a good time. I'm using the planning as something to focus on. (And yes, this also means trying to take the food we need while there and it includes plenty of pop tarts, ice cream, soda and wine--the four food groups) I figure it could be a good place to re-charge, release, revive, re-whatever to try and get not only my food review mojo back but also a more general uptick in emotion itself. Okay, so I'm too much of a cynic to be totally relying on this festival to be the do all end all for me, but I'm at least keeping more of an open mind to....possibilities. I know, totes not like me but there is first time for everything they say and eventually, some bite of food will burst forth with taste and possibility. And not just because it is overly sweet or has too much Sriracha on it, though those wouldn't hurt either.
It will probably be a few more weeks before another review but I'm going to try and ease back into the social media circus again with my food Instagram. You can check it out here: placesiveeaten for food I may come across while aimlessly wandering the playa. Till then, thanks to all for reading my emotional release and keep enjoying whatever you are eating for me.