My husband could get three bites out of a raisin. He has never eaten a sloppy sandwich while slumped over the sink. Never known the satisfaction of not sharing a bag of cookies. Never scooped peanut butter out of the jar with his finger. Never eaten ice cream from the carton. I admire—and disdain—my husband’s superhuman self-control with food.
Most days he goes to Burger King for lunch, orders the small fries, and throws half away. He never leaves a restaurant without a doggy bag. It’s not uncommon for him to forget food, like the wedding cake in foil on top of the refrigerator or the leftover Outback pork chop inside. He can even forget to finish a treat, like one of those delectable Busken cookies . . . you know the kind, the ones with the barely perceptible crust covering creamy yellow frosting and the tender biscuit lying beneath, not to mention the smile face beseeching you to consume it in three bites. (I’m swooning.) My husband brings one smile cookie on a plate to the table next to his recliner. He’ll nibble it, mouse-like, over a period of a half hour. Then he’ll stop snacking to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer or to phone his mom, and he’ll abandon that cookie, and I’ll find it still there the next day!
I never forget food. I can do a mental inventory of every edible item in our house, starting with the frozen Oreos left over from the chocolate cheesecake crust I made, to the wedge of gorgonzola on the middle shelf of the refrigerator, to the Club Crackers next to the Cream of Wheat, to the canned icing in the pantry, to the linty peppermints in my purse pocket.
Sometimes my last thought at night is my breakfast menu for the next morning. I’ll sleep fitfully with visions of poached eggs glistening on buttered toast, garnished with bacon bits and shredded cheddar, a chilled V-8 in a long stemmed glass on the side. Last night I woke up to go to the bathroom and thought Oh, good, only three hours till breakfast.
From the first bite I take at a meal, I begin grieving for the last bite, and I am never completely satisfied until I’m just this side of uncomfortable. I am a long-standing member of the Clean Plate Club, and I have no starving Chinese children on my conscience.
My husband says it’s easy: he just eats what he wants. Well, I watch what he eats, and he doesn’t want what I want. This is a man who will throw in his napkin mid-Mars bar exclaiming, “This is just too rich.” He will “plunder” (he’d say) the candy jar filled with m & m. He unscrews the lid, then daintily plucks out one—yes, I said one—m & m . . . well, I guess that would just be an “m.”
I, on the other hand, love the aroma and texture and tantalizing flavor of foods. I enjoy reading cookbooks and imagining how the flavors of the ingredients will dance and marry. I can recall with uncommon clarity what I ate at nearly every gathering (pork loin and spaetzle at Elke’s; mahi-mahi sandwich dressed with remoulade sauce at book club; melon and chicken salad garnished with toasted almonds at Mr. Young’s wake) . My mouth is watering now as I recall celebratory dishes I’ve consumed (water chestnuts wrapped in bacon at a student’s 2006 graduation party; grasshopper pie at my own wedding shower 43 years ago).
Rick is persnickety about his food, starting with its preparation. At night, he’ll set out his cup, chai tea bag, Splenda packet, and spoon. And he’ll arrange his bowl and Life cereal box just so to assure precise AM pouring, He’ll tsk tsk over salad greens not torn into bite sized pieces. He’ll excise every vein of succulent fat from his steak. You know what they say about chips? That you can’t eat just one? He can.
My husband’s weight has remained about the same for the 46 years I’ve known him except for a few blubbery years when we’d polish off an entire large pizza together on Friday nights at the TKE house, and an emaciated six months while he was in National Guard basic training. When he goes to the doctor, he is serene as he steps on the scale, wearing his shoes and coat, with his keys and phone on his pocket. Who does that?
I, on the other hand, remove my shoes and wedding ring and the gum wrapper in my pocket before stepping on the scale at Dr. Kohls’ office. Actually, though, I start preparing for my weigh-in hours before by shaving all that bulky hair from my legs and armpits and the wax from my ears. I have two modes: losing or gaining. I can tell you what I weighed and what size I wore at every adult milestone: when I got pregnant the first time; when I got pregnant the second time; when I got my master’s degree; when my grandfather died; when we moved into our third house.
Rick is the Rainman of calorie counting, mentally computing the input/output ratio. He knows exercise is a must to maintain his figure, so he walks hours to buy computer paper, Worcestershire Sauce, and paper clips. He grunts and clanks around on exercise equipment, and he bounds up flights of stairs, two steps at a time, rather than using the perfectly lovely elevator his more sane neighbors use. While he labors over his genealogy research (an endeavor of conceit, revealing all the Lingos who have died at a younger age than he is now) he adheres to a movement regimen every 30 minutes, reminded by the alarm he’s set on his iPhone. Seriously. It’s exhausting watching him do all this exercise. I worry that, although he is going to live a very long time, he’s going to be so darned lonely without me.
It’s a little annoying sitting down at the dinner table next to Jiminy Cricket each night, but it’s a darned good thing he’s there. Without my trim husband (self-righteously) modeling healthy eating habits, I’d be way fatter– really fat, like circus fat.
But sometimes I fantasize what it would like to be married to a different kind of man, a man with whom I could share a feed bag. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but sometimes while my husband cozies up to me in bed, I conjure up a different fella. In my fantasy, he is a burly guy, with lots of back hair, hands like hams, maybe a tattoo. He has a thick neck and arms, and greasy stains on his t-shirt. This guy, Bruno we’ll call him, has a smudge of barbecue sauce on his cheek.
Bruno is polishing off a slab of ribs. He stops and looks at me, devours me with his eyes (because he’s not nearly full yet), and says, “Why aren’t cha eatin’, darlin’? You’re just too skinny. Hey waitress, rustle up a big ole’ juicy steak for this gorgeous gal. Make it rare. And order me another slab to go. Don’t forget the onion rings.”
Copyright © 2014 Sandy Lingo, All Rights Reserved