November 24, 2016

Finding Solace in our Food (without feeling Guilty).

julia roberts eating

To say that I was “bullied” throughout my schooling is a conservative statement.

A more accurate statement, regarding all that jazz, is that I cried on more days than not while growing up.

But I’ve got a happy message that those experiences contributed to, and my hope is that it may help many.

When just a child, I was picked on for being Jewish, taunted for being smart, and made fun of for having big feet! Ridiculed for being tall, and for having a large and strong profile and expressive features in tandem with jet black hair, I just didn’t blend in.

Mocked for my larger than life personality and involvement in the theater and the speech team (instead of sports), I experienced a surfeit of torment and truly tender times.

From having my artwork torn up into shreds by other kids when riding home on the bus, and being cornered and shoved around physically when in the fifth grade—and by girls no less—after classmates had learned that my sweet parents had enrolled me in karate lessons (can’t imagine why, right?), to being chosen last, nearly every time, when the “picking of the teams” took place in that draconian game of “Slaughter Ball” that played out in Phys. Ed. class—I endured it all.

By high school, a teacher even had singled me out, and delivered some verbally and emotionally abusive jabs my way that my headmaster chose not to believe, instead defending his staff.

The above, mind you, merely reveals the less painful moments—the ones that I am willing to talk about publicly without fear that I may start to percolate!

But rest assured, I am not a victim. Things, back then, took a delicious turn come evening!

For at the end of each school day, I could go home.

It was an epic, beautiful, comforting, undeniably inviting and so graciously “safe” contrast to what my school days were, and it greeted me around the dinner table every night. And thank God for that!

Not only did I learn that food is a marvelous and spectacular thing (and most certainly not the evil enemy) but it is quite the unifying connection that allows us to so lucidly “come together” as a family, with incredible, edible gifts or blessings to feed on.

For me, and just when needed, such an environment, experience, and bounty of culinary goods served up warmth and nurturing love!

Suddenly, I could sit up tall and not be laughed at. And I could let my humor and wit fly readily and still receive praise and appropriate chuckles at all the right places. I could talk about the world and articulate my perspective on things. I could be me. 

No longer would I hear the voices of my tormentors. The enthralling sounds of corks popping, water boiling, and mushrooms sizzling, coupled with the wafting and alluring aromas of calming spices, and the lavish sight of fantastic olive oil so gallantly drizzled across each dish—it all whisked me away to what life truly should be about!

Nourishing our bodies and souls, taking time to focus on the good and on each other, going around the table and listening to how each person’s day was, or about whatever was on their mind—it taught me much.

To genuinely admire the colors on my plate, to raise a big goblet of gratitude and toast glasses with my parents and siblings, to pause and smell my meal, to laugh, love, learn from one another—to authentically taste our pure existence together—showed me that life was good again.

That very same kitchen culture, making a priority of good food and good moods, and my family sitting down to celebrate and covet it each day was a ritual in our abode. Both of my parents were home every night at the table. And despite extracurricular activities, we kids somehow were there for dinnertime as well. All of us.

We weren’t allowed to answer the phone during that time, (thankfully, cell phones, tablets, and video games did not then exist), and we were encouraged to eat as much as we wanted, needed and loved. I learned not to fear my food but to devotedly cherish it and to value what I put into my body.

Today, more than ever, we all can benefit from slowing down, taking time to break bread with one another and to embrace a daily tradition with friends, families, lovers or even just with our precious pets, in the name of taking in the bounty of tasty treasures from this great earth.

No matter what pains us, or what the external circumstances around us may be like, we indeed have a liberty and a choice when it comes to how we will see what exists on our own plates.

This isn’t a carte blanche invitation to devour a box of doughnuts. No, not by any means.

Stress should not send us to stoop to its deplorable level after all, and in turn abuse our own sacred bodies by stuffing unhealthy things into them. We are worthy of fantastic nourishment, truly!

Every single thing that I was made fun of for, when growing up, is something that at I now get complimented about as an adult. Yes, every single one!

Clearly, food saved my life back then. And due to it being presented by two people who so angelically fostered and uncorked both my palate and curiosity, I am today able to recognize its value and pay that forward in the name of both sharing my energy and also helping other people. I chose my parents well!

But I can share too, that each day’s main meal, to me, is my most “magnificent obsession” and favorite moment of the day—phones turned off, with a single focus and for however long it takes.

Food is my medicine, literally, as when I am low in vitamin D or needing to up my B12 or whatever it be, I do it with food, not supplemental vitamin pills or medicine. Pure food. The kitchen cupboard serves not only as my gourmet intake, and my skincare toolkit, but as a holistic path to topical applications and remedies—I’m a “multidimensional” food-passionate chick, and am of the belief that so many things in life can be soothed and fixed with a fine mea!

And when we share that meal with others? It’s even more “off the moon!” Let’s face it, with lovers, food can become downright ambrosial and arousing!

With pets (I cook gourmet meals for my dogs each day), food can become a reminder that we are needed. And the connection to animals and food in one moment—with our dogs smelling our scent after we’ve handled their meal—can be an emblem to canines and other creatures about familiarity, comfort and trust.

And fret not about the hurtful junk that I experienced on the “playground of growing pains” that danced out its yucky course. I have, in exchange, been blessed to have a meaningful life, beautifully speckled with some epic travel, which gifted me the opportunity to sit down and eat with many cultures around our big world, and to participate in their delicacies, practices, and family warmth (family and “familiar” coming from the same word root derivative), and for such, how very grateful am I.

At just age 46, I have both danced at the Vienna Opera Ball and brought copious scrambled egg meals to the homeless. I have loved, lost, learned, laughed, and languished in food experiences that I still pinch myself for having successfully lived! But I am just getting started. And the possibility of many new desires and exciting adventures ahead reminds me of how much authentic, raw, and unabashed honor we all can have in that dance forward—full throttle.

There are certainly bullies in this vast world. That, unfortunately, is true. There are some unpleasantries too. But there are also quite beautiful things to eat—and to thus savor, to share, to celebrate, and to enjoy with unlimited gratitude and from a fully present palate and place at the table and on every day.

So let’s dig in!


Author: Laurie-Beth Robbins

Image: Yoel Ben-Avraham/Flickr 

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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