I went to the supermarket today, something I don’t do very often. Groceries usually come to me by doorstep delivery, supplemented by a weekly fruit and veg box and some small scale supplementary shopping by Hubby. I hate supermarkets. In truth I find them slightly overwhelming. Everything seems excessive — quantities, choice, variety of brands. Not to mention the plastic packaging we have all learned to hate!
Supermarkets contain few happy memories. As a child there were places to be endured, trailing round after my mum once I’d grown too big to sit in the child’s seat of the trolley. My older brother was entrusted with the calculator. His job was to record the price of anything that went into the trolley to make sure the shop didn’t exceed my mum’s budget. If it did, one of us would be sent back from the checkout to replace an item. I was too young to be embarrassed but I bet my mum was.
Teenage years were mostly about illness, unable to eat properly, fearing food because I felt so sick all the time. I had some medication that helped, but I still lost a lot of weight. I looked and felt a mess. I didn’t trust food, my digestive system was in chaos. If I could have survived on something artificial and flavourless but safe to my inner system, I would have welcomed that. Supermarket food seemed like a sick joke. It was a long road to get myself feeling well and eating properly.
My mum took no delight in cooking. It was just food on the table. She would be aghast at the food porn pictures on social media now, as people proudly document their grand meals out or their culinary triumphs at home. One of my teachers does this a little. Not boastfully, I think, but perhaps pursuing her own reconciliation with food. I look at these pictures and in her food preparation and presentation I see the same attention to detail she brings to her teaching, the same loving care, and openness to being delighted by what she meets.
I came back from the supermarket today with simple food to make simple meals. Although to an outsider I suppose my eating habits seems pretty normal now, I still feel as though I’m making friends with food. It’s not been an enemy to my digestive system for many years, I know more or less what I can eat and what I can’t. Now it’s more about deepening the relationship. I’m learning to love food, not just tolerate it. I pay closer attention, developing intimacy. As I handle the raw ingredients, I notice the textures of the vegetables and the scent of spices, the feel of the knife chopping through different densities, the beauty of natural colours. As I eat I take care to notice flavours and textures, slowly exploring new combinations.
All of life is more vivid these days — simple everyday actions like eating, walking, breathing contain a wealth of details to observe on the other side of the familiarity. On good days, it makes life feel richer; on bad days it seems too much, as though the volume of the world was turned up too high, my sensitivity off the scale.
But greater sensitivity to the world is infinitely better than feeling sick all the time and hiding from the world 🙂