I am a mom. I love my babies, as I have no doubt my mom loves me. I understand that my mom is a person and so am I. I say this to say that this post is not intended to paint my mom as a villain in my life. She is my HERO. One day my children are going to have to recover from some decisions I’ve made as well. I pray that I am able to give them less baggage than I had, which is exactly what my mom did for me.
I grew up in the ’90s. I was born in the ’80s, but the ’90s is when I can most clearly recall memories. My mom was a single mother of five children. Three boys and two girls, I’m in the middle.
As you might expect to be a single mom is hard, so being a single mom to five children must have been maddening. We didn’t have much in the way of material things but we did have food.
I remember my mom giving me a food stamp to buy “Zoo Zoos” aka snacks from the local corner store. I also remember looking forward to my moms’ return from the grocery store. The items were sure to have so many tasty treats. I have a particular affinity for a newly purchased loaf of wheat bread. As soon as my siblings and I put away all the groceries, I’d open that loaf of bread, skip the “booty part,” grab two soft slices and pop them into my mouth like cotton candy.
To make matters more deliciously tempting MY MAMA THROWS DOWN! We have these cast iron skillets that have been in our family since my mama was a baby. My Uncle, the man who helped raise her was into oiling them, seasoning them and throwing them into a steel barrel of fire. The fire department didn’t appreciate it, but I do now.
A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is a treasure.B
In the summers the men in my hood would fish at the local lagoon and bring home fish for my mom to prepare. We’d have a fish fry for all the peeps on the block. My mom is from MISSISSIPPI. Southern soul food while having to be cheap meant I had plenty of:
|Fried Chicken drumsticks||Canned Corn|
|Black Eyed Peas||Pigs Feet|
|Lima Beans||Hungry Jack Mashed Potatoes|
|Fried Chicken drumsticks||Rice & Rice A Roni|
|Pigs Feet||Green Beans, Sweet Peas, Corn (both sweet and creamed. I loved cream corn.)|
|Black Eyed Peas||Lima Beans|
|Hungry Jack Mashed Potatoes||Salmon Croquette|
|Fried Porkchops||Sweet Potato Pie|
|Caramel Cake||German Chocolate Cake|
YOU NAME IT!
I also grew up during the rise of the “Buffet Restaurants.” Old Country Buffet was THE place to go. When they first opened the food quality was awesome and the premise of ALL YOU CAN eat was more than appealing. My friends and family would forgo food all day just waiting to go. We’d eat, chill talk and then eat again. It was literally a shame if you didn’t eat until you were sick, because apparently all you can eat was a personal challenge sent and accepted.
I live in Chicago where food is diverse, accessible and MAD GOOD. I mean we have Uncle Remus (WEST SIDE) and Harolds Chicken. Home Run Inn, Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s. We have Mac Authors and Pearls. To live in Chicago is to EAT and eat well. We have so many different cultures. The city is set up based on race, culture, and class. You can eat the best Chinese food in Chinatown and head on over to Little India for a taste straight from every part of India. I loved all of it. I literally have eaten plenty at all of these places.
Being a survivor of child sex abuse I now understand that doing things like gorging oneself on food is a very accessible way to cope with stress or pain.
My pain had me blow up to a WHOPPING 548 LBS.B
I’ve noticed five things that have contributed to my addiction to food:
Giving or getting food as a reward – I mean you all know what this looks like. You did great on a test, you get ice cream. You did all your chores, a brownie for you. This was the foundation of my new addiction/abuse of food.
I mean, it would literally feel good to eat a significant amount of food. It didn’t seem like that at the time, but it was. I’d say I deserve ice cream and cake or I brought my lunch all week, I can dine out today. It’s the holidays, of course, I should binge on food all day. Of course, any of these behaviors in moderation aren’t problematic but they are for someone who uses food to cope.
Finishing your plate – I can remember being a child and staring down at my plate of something rich and delicious and feeling finished. The portions given were too large and my small tummy couldn’t eat anymore, however, the wrath of my mom was pretty inspiring. So I finished my plate of food. Sometimes my big sister would help me, but we didn’t waste anything. This was probably the most damaging thing I experienced.
The idea that wasting food was more important than my health. I mean containers are cheap now, but I grew up in the time of Tupper ware. That stuff was not handy in my house. Unfortunately, This habit is still with me today.
Whether I’m home or dining out, I feel an intense amount of guilt for not eating everything on my plate. I say… oh, I don’t want to waste this, but it isn’t quite enough to take home, I’ll just finish it. I also can’t determine when I’m full or have had enough. I’m used to being painfully uncomfortable. I still think that the tradition of eating way too much in one sitting during the holidays is the only way to celebrate. I’m working against these thoughts and feelings in favor of a healthier relationship with food. I think the fancy new term for it is “intuitive eating.”
Low income & low-quality food – I surely grew up in a food desert. The “corner store” model was alive and well. While it was great to be able to get some things at local stores, they were usually more expensive and lower quality goods. There weren’t the likes of Whole Food or Trader Joes, just Aldi and Dominick’s. There were local lager markets like Leamington and Buddy Bears, but they weren’t exactly close by. My mom learned to drive pretty late in life but even when she learned to drive she would never take an expressway and our access to a running vehicle was up and down.
The local stores were surely focused on demand and supply (said it in that order intentionally). There was no suggested way of eating because there was no way they could guarantee that people would buy it. I also grew up in a time where we weren’t having discussions about food and addressing food deserts and food inequity like we have the benefit of today. So, we just ate what was put in front of us without much thought.
Meat, Veggie & Starch – So to hell with a food pyramid or the healthy plate pictures. The standard plate composition in my home was a large piece of protein, a starch, and a veggie. For example, Spaghetti is a meal. Not in my home. Spaghetti is meant to be had with fried fish and green beans. It never dawned on us that It was ok to leave a starch or meat off. I can’t seem to accept a plate to this day that doesn’t have all three. I have to talk myself down from the stove EVERY TIME. lol
Tribal-ish – In one of my posts on finances I mentioned that it’s hard to know what is strange or normal when you don’t have any people in your community that do things differently.
A lot of people think of diversity and the benefit it has in a professional setting, but what about the positive impact it could have on our personal lives. I’ve learned amazing and awful things from people who have different cultural, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Introducing a different way of doing things to our children only stands to benefit them. I did not get that benefit.
The way we ate and lived was “normal.” I can begin to talk with anyone from the community I grew up in that are about the same age as me and they will all recount the same tales of “whoopings, mama sayings, and epic moments.
I don’t regret my childhood. It makes me appreciate what I can offer my family and I have so many fond memories. My MAMA can still throw down. She is even open to trying my newfangled idea of throwing down in the kitchen. While I hate that I struggle with obtaining and keeping a healthy relationship with food, I understand how I got here. It took a lifetime. I’m worth the work it takes to figure this thing out.
So tell me sis, what was the food situation like for you growing up? Do you struggle with any of the things I discussed in this post? Have you figured out a way to attain and maintain a healthy relationship with food? Fill a sister in. I really want to learn more about your experience.