Me, myself, and food

If any of you have kept even half an eye on my Facebook over the past month and a half (or year and a half, for that matter), you will have undoubtedly been overwhelmed by an exorbitant number of food-related posts, photos, videos, and what have you. The nine friends who Facebook has decided to display on my profile are only a greater testament to my dedication to food: 5/9 friends are fellow members and executives of Spoon University at Berkeley.

From this cursory glance, you might say that Spoon has taken over my life. That is more than likely an accurate observation, but I would like to amend it: food has taken over my life.

Repping the Spoon swag all day, err day. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Given the apt timing of my food-dominated Facebook and it being the tail end of National Eating Disorder Week, I felt like this was as good a time as any to share my own relationship with food.

I have never experienced what could have been medically diagnosed as an “eating disorder,” but I still went through – and still occasionally go through – my own share of insecurities related to body image. Like most other freshman, I wasn’t too fond of the food at the dining commons. The buffet style made me worry that I ate too much, so I often opted to buy contained meals at various markets around campus. When sophomore year rolled around, I continued to use a partial meal plan for convenience’s sake, but slowly realized that the food they served simply didn’t fit my tastes, eating habits, or living style. I finally took matters – and my food – into my own hands the summer after sophomore year.

Mom was right – it was difficult, in more ways than one. Even when the struggle of grocery shopping was solved, then came the question of what I would actually make for myself. When I was living at home, I was comfortable with the oven but shied away from the stove after I’d burnt myself on a lightbulb when I was six. (Don’t ask me how that logic works; I’m still not sure.) I could bake mean brownies out of the box and was perfectly capable of putting together a decent sandwich, but Mom had always done the family style Asian cooking, and I was up the creek without a paddle when it came to the question of finding bok choy, pea sprouts, or varieties of tofu at Safeway though they seemed to come in abundance at Asian markets.

Bok choy, stir fried quinoa, and mapo tofu.
Bok choy, stir fried quinoa, and mapo tofu. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Summer was a sandwich and salad-filled struggle of endeavoring to not eat pasta out of the box or subsist solely on cold meals, but when school finally picked up again in late August, I finally hit my stride. I’d managed to completely pin down my healthy eating habits, and cooked almost every night. What began as a struggle turned into fruitful and vegetable-ful rewards.

The food I now cook and eat at home is something I enjoy doing for myself. Cooking is a stressful process, yes, but it’s also one of the few things I have to do throughout the day that I do purely for myself. Of all the homework assignments and readings I have to do each day, cooking dinner at the end of the day is a period of time that I choose to do because of my own desire to eat good, healthy food.

Belgian waffle with powdered sugar at Mokka with Mom.
Belgian waffle with powdered sugar at Mokka with Mom. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Cooking often definitely cuts down my opportunities to eat out, but it helps me save money and has led me to value my restaurant meals even more. (For my own future reference: Make a post about all the restaurants I’ve eaten at in Berkeley.)

Since starting college, food was a way for me to bond with people. What began as “Just ask him/her out to lunch, then it won’t seem too much like a date if you’re worried” turned into “Take a break from studying; you have to eat sometime,” which finally transformed into taking great joy from all the meals I shared with others. Whether it be a quick lunch break with my aforementioned Spoon executives at Smart Alec’s, or brunch dates with my mom at Mokka, or date dates with my partner at Trattoria La Siciliana, they all became extremely significant to me. I began to love, and still love, having the chance to sit down; take a break from my busy schedule with good company; and enjoy a meal, frozen yogurt (shoutout to Alyssa who has been my fro-yo partner since freshman year), or just a coffee together.

My relationship with food has since grown to the point where I no longer require company to enjoy it. I allow myself “treat yo’self” days with Cupcakin’ and actively plan my meals ahead of time – not just for grocery shopping needs – to ensure that I will have things to look forward to each week. Food isn’t simply a way for me to get the nutrients I need; it’s a reminder for me to take time to enjoy the little things, enjoy life, and enjoy myself.

Funfetti cupcake from Cupcakin', a sin that I committed at half past midnight because I treat myself. Thanks, Jocelyn!
Funfetti cupcake from Cupcakin’, a sin that I committed at half past midnight because I treat myself. Thanks, Jocelyn! | Photo by Courtney Cheng

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