Let’s say it’s 2012, and you’re in my neighborhood. It’s 6:30 in the evening, and you see that my lights are on.
“I wonder if Brandy has dinner ready?” you wonder. Because maybe you’ve come to a party at my house before, and you’ve sampled my creamy roasted tomato soup with thick grilled cheese. Maybe I’ve made you a decadent birthday cake, or given you a bag of still-warm white chocolate cranberry cookies.
So you come to the door, and notice an absence of good smells.
“She must have the oven fan on,” you think, knocking on the door.
But when I greet you in the pale light of the front porch light, I am not wearing a flour-dusted apron. I don’t have a wooden spoon in one hand. Instead, I am holding a soggy bowl of cereal. Or maybe a paper plate with the remnants of a chicken nugget meal from Wendy’s, a damp red blob marking the spot I dragged french fries through the ketchup.
You wouldn’t have just caught me randomly on a bad night. It was every night.
Because although I could cook a feast for my friends, could prepare a gourmet meal to drop off at a new mom’s house, I never, ever did it for myself. Ever.
I didn’t eat at the table.
I didn’t put my food on a real plate, or my drinks in a real glass.
I ate over the sink.
I balanced soggy paper plates on my knees.
The care I put into preparing food for others never trickled down to me. I didn’t think I deserved it.
In the last year and half, I’ve consciously tried to change that. I meal plan every weekend, pouring over cookbooks and through websites, looking for meals that I will enjoy.
That’s important. I’m not looking for “diet foods.” I’m looking for healthy, nutritious foods that I will taste good. And trust me, it’s a whole lot easier to cook healthy for yourself than eat healthy at restaurants or fast food spots (but that’s another post for another day.)
When I sit down to eat at night, I put my food on a plate that feels heavy in my hands. I eat with my eyes first–take in the colors and textures. I pour water into a glass–putting in a lemon wedge if I’m feeling fancy. And if I’ve had a really hard day, if I’m feeling dangerously drawn to paper plates and fast food, I light a candle. I inhale the scents of self-care, and eat.
So if you’re in my neighborhood, at around 6:30, and you see the light on, come on in. I’ll fix you a plate.