24 July 2012


I have an innate terror about feeling hungry. Call it childhood trauma (NOT from my mother, for the record; she made sure that the house was perpetually stocked with good things to eat) or what have you, but that feeling of knowing that there is nothing for me to eat gives me severe anxiety. I make sure to eat well before leaving my home.
Anyone who's watched me eat knows that I generally eat very frequently. I could have just eaten a very short time ago, but we pass another bit of food I want later, and I've got to stop and refuel. It's like that initial anxiety you get when you first have your new mobile phone. You're not comfortable with its battery life yet, so you charge it too frequently for that first month. You hate knowing that you'll be without charge at a critical moment. In reality, it's probably not that huge a deal. If the thing is running low, you can really just turn it off and turn it back on when you need it. But until you learn that, you're still in dread of the battery running out.
I guess that because I'm a vegan, my lack of food anxiety tends to be pronounced. I have been places where the only option is a cup of black coffee with some sugar. And no, there isn't bread that I can trust. You see, it's been such a while since I've had dairy, that even a small amount in my food (even when I don't know it's there) sends my digestive system into a violent protest. Eggs can sneak by without my notice. Honey doesn't actually do anything. But dairy, when I accidentally ingest it, has me wrapped around the porcelain overlord, sweating profusely, and blasting from every orifice. Not a pleasant feeling.
So it's especially a nerve-wracking experience to leave my little vegan bubble. You see, I work at a vegan restaurant, am married to a committed vegan, and keep a vegan house. The friends that I socialise with on a regular basis are at the very least vegetarian. Those who aren't generally tend to be respectful omnivores, and are happy to wait until leaving my presence before settling down to animal flesh and the rest. Pretty much every restaurant in my city (including the steak houses, I found out on one particularly annoying night) can and is often happy to serve me something not only filling, but delicious. If I call ahead, I even sometimes get a fairly excited chef, who'd like to try out something experimental to see if I like it. At the local Chinese food delivery place, they have a selection of veggie meats to go with all their dishes. And they know what I mean when I ask for vegan.
When I leave my bubble, however, it's not so easy. These are often places with no mass transit, and I don't drive, and everything is spaced out really far apart. On those occasions, I'll end up at a convenience store or pharmacy, and grab some cashews, or crackers. But frankly, after a few hours, crackers and cashews don't really feel satisfying, dense in calories though they be.
All of this has done nothing at all to relieve my anxiety around hunger. I hate feeling hungry. It's one of those things that I've had to experience so rarely that to actively get myself into a situation where such is the case infuriates me.
But if I stop to think about it, I realise that I'm really being silly. Being hungry is not the worst thing in the world, especially considering that I live in a country where food is readily available to me when I want it. So what if I do have to skip a meal once in a while? More will be waiting later. And maybe letting myself get hungry once in a great while will make the meal at the other end of the experience taste all the more delicious.
It's something I'm working on, and I know I can get through it if I try.
I'm still going to carry a bottle of water though.