on being hungry

by s.

I have been drinking a lot of seltzer lately, and I don’t want to lie to you: this feels important. Yesterday I grabbed my second seltzer of the day while walking home from the office and ate it with a bag of particularly vinegary salt and vinegar chips, and then I came home and ate some olives and the rest of the chips dipped in spicy black bean dip. I considered how snack-forward my diet has become. I wondered briefly about my relationship to salt.

It is easy to dismiss these moments as insignificant parts of the everyday, and I often do. My eating life and I, however, have a very close relationship. More often than not, what I eat determines my mood rather than vice versa; in general, I am hungry. (“In general, she was hungry” is a thing that my grave will probably say.) One of my dad’s favorite stories to tell is about the time I woke up in the hospital and immediately reached for a pen and paper, with which I wrote out the directions for him to walk twenty blocks to retrieve a dish of pumpkin rice pudding with graham cracker topping. I can tell you what to feed me if you want me to be happy (nachos, kale salad, peanut butter.) I can tell you what to feed me if you want me to become instantly irritable (cake, pizza, more than one beer.) I can also tell you that the things I eat – and, I would argue, the things we all eat – are wholly indicative of character.

You see, until about a year ago, I hated seltzer. There was a time in my life I wouldn’t touch an olive, and I am certain that I didn’t even try a salt and vinegar potato chip until my late twenties. I never liked rice pudding, I didn’t know what kale was, and I hated the taste of beer for so many years I didn’t even know that drinking too much of it would make me unhappy. I have never by any stretch of the imagination been a picky eater, and I will always try anything once, but it seems that now more than ever a large portion of my favorite foods are the few things I once devoted myself to disliking.

Things change. People don’t change is something I used to say quite often, but sometimes you only have to look to yourself to learn that your prior tenets are patently untrue. I change by measurable amounts. I can tell you a lot of things about the person I was a year ago, from the people she loved best to the number of tattoos she had. I can tell you she didn’t drink seltzer or paint her fingernails ever or walk home two hours from the office or wake up at five thirty in the morning to drink a pot of French press and plot out her day and her brain. She was me, for sure, in so many ways, but if you took care to describe me now in a certain way to me back then, I’d have laughed and said you’ve got the wrong girl.

The last holdouts in my history of food dislikes were radishes and butter. It was Alexis who taught me one evening at dinner that you take a cold, sliced plate of the former and a cold, sliced plate of the latter and you combine the two. You salt it, because you shouldn’t worry about salt, and it becomes a thing you will eat for breakfast when given the opportunity. Then you move on to another list of former dislikes and hope that it’s just as delicious.