I am fat. Alright, I give in. I am obese actually. And one advice people offer me repeatedly, without stinting is "Check your appetite." The candid ones say "Stop Eating." The more clued-up among them suggest, "Hot water with a squeeze of lime and a spoonful of honey." "No, green tea, thrice a day" others argue. Usually, I would bob my head robotically in mock agreement, make a few promises and once my well-wishers were on their way I would order a shot of espresso with a slice of decadent chocolate cake on the side.
Once a friend told me in an animated voice, "Food is your enemy, it will kill you. Do not give into temptation" she said matter-of-factly, sipping on her latte. I had only just cut into a slice of Blueberry cheesecake. My mouth turned sour, suddenly. I half expected her to into break into that sermon from the film Chocolat. I know it by heart. "Satan wears many guises. At times, he is the singer of a lurid song you hear on the radio. At times, the author of a salacious novel...and at times, the maker of sweet things, mere trifles, for what could seem more harmless, more innocent, than chocolate?" Then my mind drifted to Johnny Depp. The blueberry cheese cake once again seemed appetising.
You see, I have struggled with weight forever; have been ridiculed by strangers and admonished by well-wishers. It hurt mostly, but I grew a thick skin and learnt to laugh at myself, it works like magic. Perhaps I am a little shameless too. And the concluding confirmation of my shamelessness came into view when I quit my job to blog about food.
This meant spending hours in the kitchen, culinary experiments, a new dish every other day, tastings and restaurant launches and wine and cheese festivals, bloggers meets over extensive feasts. Everyone thought it was a bad idea, "Not in your condition. You should have nothing to do with food. In fact, consider fasting a few times a week," a distant uncle advised, mockingly.
They were all worried. Only, I was worried the most. For years I have been told that food is my enemy. But the more they told me to stay away, the more I was seeking refuge in the warm comfort of a giant cheese burger dripping meaty juices or greasy potato fritters from the shabby roadside shack in the locality. The more I tried to fight food, the more hopelessly I fell in love. And now I planned to make a career out of it all. Fatal, I told myself.
Walking the talk was difficult still. Everything is more difficult if you are fat. No one seems to see beyond that flab round your waist. Once at a food festival I overheard a suave journalist telling her friend how a foodie wasn't necessarily one who ate a lot, but someone who appreciated the nuances of fine food. I sulked for the rest of the evening; I wondered if they were talking about me. Everyone did seem to think I eat obscene quantities of food. Well sometimes I did, mostly I didn't. I wondered if they had branded me as a gourmand, rather than a connoisseur of food.
Another time at a restaurant launch when I pushed away my plate of soggy and offensively salty lasagna after taking only a bite, the restaurant publicist rushed to my side and asked me in her sing-song voice, "Are you on a diet?" She was loud enough to make a few heads turn. I wanted to tell her that the food was outright appalling and that it was none of her business whether I was on a diet, but I merely mumbled something about being full. Later that evening I wrote them an unflattering review, hit the post button and picked up a book to read . No, come on, I'm not vindictive. The food really was bad.
Then there were the guilt pangs to deal with. Every food festival or food tasting would be followed by days of resigned melancholy. I would be furious with myself for allowing such indulgence. I would conclude all hope was lost and find respite in a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream topped with chocolate sauce perhaps. Here I was on an exciting gastronomic journey, one that I had chosen for myself, and yet I was resisting it.
One day, something happened. I received a mail. It was from a fan of the blog, someone who was touched by how I loved food. For once someone was not rebuking but appreciating me for my love for food. Soon people were writing to me about meals they had cooked inspired by my blog, and places they had tried out because I had recommended it. I had begun to notice in the meantime that between cooking, archiving recipes, writing about my kitchen experiments and food experiences, feeding friends and obsessing over food photography, my insane cravings were on the decline. I was no longer raiding my fridge in the middle of the night and I didn't mind regulated portions. My love for food had only grown stronger, my mind brimming with delectable ideas. But suddenly passing that dark chocolate mousse and munching on salad for dinner didn't seem like torture.
It was time I stopped berating myself for a love-so-innocent. It was time I made peace with food. The point is...it was never about cutting ties, all I had to do is mend the relationship.