Food is exploration. I am 24 and riding an undercurrent of adrenaline and the slight buzz of a cocktail made with ingredients that I had never tasted before tonight. I am in another city, Chicago, or maybe Atlanta. Sitting around this restaurant table are bloggers and chefs, photographers and magazine editors and me. Plates are placed before me and I eat from them. I can talk now about foie gras and rapini puree and Castelvetrano olives. Food is a map of the world. I am feeding my wanderlust, my desire for knowledge, my hunger for more. When I am full, or past full, I climb into a hotel bed with white sheets and rows of pillows. Sleep comes quickly. I am groggy and aching as I stand before the bathroom mirror the next morning, but then there’s a cappuccino and at the back of my brain, the siren song of another new ingredient. I roll my shoulders back and stride out into the brisk day.
Food is fuel. I am 27 and chopping onions and kale and mushrooms. My roommate and I share a small kitchen in our cozy rented bungalow, the contents of our weekly CSA box spilling across the wooden countertops. Standing at the sink, I realize I know how to feed myself. On Sunday afternoons, I cook frittatas and brown ground beef, wash and dry and slice endless piles of vegetables in preparation for the week to come. I would fight the first person who asked for a meal’s worth of protein that I have purchased and prepped, awaiting me in the fridge. I could fight them, too. I feel strong, smart, equipped. I take long, solitary walks in the wooded park nearby, feeling the ache in my legs as I climb the steep hill to gaze out at the skyline. Success in dating eludes me, but I feel safe within the walls of my small room, held by the soft powdery blue walls and the billowing white curtains.
Food is love. I am 30 and happy to have some of my best friends in my new city. I’m standing in my small kitchen, scraping strands from half a spaghetti squash as I hold it with an oven mitt, feeling the steam on my skin, knowing I’m rushing this meal but wanting to feed my friends. Slightly impressing them never hurts, either. We’re all still convincing ourselves that we’re adults. I pour generous glasses of Malbec and set the timer on the oven. We sit around my small table and talk about religion and relationships and finances. The love I feel for my friends seems to pour out of me and into the room. We inflate my air mattress, pushing aside chairs in my little apartment. Two of us take my bed and the other two pull the blankets over themselves on the air mattress. We sleep soundly, confident in the way one can only be when surrounded by those who see her.