Food Minus Flavor

 “Fat boy!” My dad yells after layering on leftover mac and cheese atop pizza. Cheese poured from all sides as he attempted to shovel the all hot, stringy, deliciousness in one bite. He didn’t care how the dish was filled with grease and calories, or how the cheese from the pasta was made from a fluorescent orange powder. 

This is the dad I know, the dad who would eat all my ice cream from my cone.

I don’t know this new man, counting calories and intermittent fasting. He is timid in the way he eats, trying to look his best after his heart being broken. He is a middle aged man, divorced twice, cheated on once, desperately seeking approval of his supermodel girlfriend. 

A thick, bitter kale smoothie, absent of flavor or joy for breakfast, a barely dressed, wilted arugula salad for lunch, and a ghostly thin slice of turkey for dinner. If cake were to be eaten, which it barely was, it would be a cashew cheesecake: a sad excuse for a cake, composed of milk, unsalted cashews, and honey. No amount of honey could make up for the fact that it wasn’t cake. In fact, the only resemblance it bore to a cake was its shape; other than that, it was a crumbly mess. 

His big, hunky arms that once tossed me in the air were replaced by a thin, structured mass that I no longer recognized.

I watched and watched until a mere strawberry was decadent enough to be considered a dessert. 

While my sister and I enjoyed steaming hot bowls filled with spaghetti, he ate turkey once again. I felt guilty slurping up thick buttery noodles in front of him, like I was taunting him. His paper thin blonde girlfriend sneered at our meal; she too denied herself of the joy of food. 

Coming from poor farmers in rural Russia, she was used to a strict diet of borscht, cabbage and beet soup, or potatoes, and modeling was just as restrictive. She came from an abusive family, resulting in her having an extreme case of OCD. Even the slightest particle of dust on the ground would give her anxiety. 

For her, it was about control. How much sugar was in this, how much salt was in that, to the point where sometimes she hardly ate at all.

I distinctly remember one week where they ate only steamed vegetables. No salt, no butter, just steamed vegetables. Soggy, flavorless, steamed vegetables, tasting of nothing but air. 

As my sister and I continued on our merry way of eating pasta and chicken nuggets, I began to wonder what it would be like to eat in black and white. I worried about my dad, how it must have felt to live like that. I asked my mom, my friends, anyone who would listen if this was normal. Is it normal that my dad doesn’t eat sugar? Is it normal that my dad is only ten pounds heavier than me? 

Scales began to turn up everywhere, in the bathroom, in the gym, in the guesthouse, as if an extra carrot would tack on some weight. I wouldn’t dare to step on, knowing it was an endless trap of weighing and weighing. 

It was strange, watching him change quite suddenly. It was strange seeing how a man so comfortable in his body could become so obsessive over it. 

Sometimes I would try and joke with him, saying all he ate was rabbit food, but he would retort quite defensively. He came after me and my eating habits, insulting my choice of having a cookie after dinner. 

“Piggie!” his girlfriend would say followed by snorts, “Piggie piggie piggie”. I was a pig compared to her, simply because I enjoyed what I ate. Apparently sugar is only for pigs. 

I refused to be like them, I savored every chocolatey sugary delight I could find. I made pancakes and drenched them in fake syrup, sticking the middle finger at their dry, unsalted egg whites.

“You’re eating that?” he would ask.

Yes. Yes I am.

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