Post-mission food intolerance. It's more common than you might realize. Missionaries leave home for 18 months to 2 years, eating whatever is offered to them, whether they like it or not, and everything is just dandy. Then they come home and find that, for some strange reason, milk suddenly makes them sick. Or maybe it's gluten that they can no longer stomach. Sugar, meat, bread, whatever the culprit may be, it seems that one thing or another finds its way onto the "Banned Foods" list for a returned missionary. For me, my post-mission "Banned Foods" list seems to read "All Foods Except For..." and then a short list of friendly comestibles. Sugar, gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, chocolate, potatoes, and a few other randoms are my new worst enemies.
I've gotten pretty good at saying no to foods that upset my stomach. I've had a lot of practice over the past 6 months since I've been home. Candy is no longer a temptation. Processed foods puffed up with soy and corn make me laugh. Sugar can be tough, chocolate depressing, but I manage. I no longer go to parties for the food, since there's never anything I can eat there anyway, and every date has me on my knees praying that we won't do anything that involves food (who wants to be THAT girl who turns down every delicious morsel?). Overall, I feel pretty good about the self-control I've developed. I'm almost always good about doing what's good for my body.
A few weeks ago I went to Institute with one of my roommates. It was an excellent class and, as always, it was followed up with a treat at the back of the room. I lingered to talk with some friends and didn't so much as look at the food table. Until....
"What do they have back there?"
"Eh, it's just pumpkin pie."
Like a werewolf changing under a full moon, my body reacted. I felt my hair stand on end. My gums seemed to retract to bare my fangs-- er, teeth. My muscles tensed, my fists clenched. My senses of sight, sound and smell were heightened and my mouth began to water. With large, wild eyes, I whipped around to face the refreshment table. "PUMPKIN PIE?!" Heaven help the poor fools who got in my way as I tore through the crowd.
"Your stomach," my roommate cautioned. But it was too late. I had already sunk my teeth into the nostalgic delicacy and was lost in another time and place, my eyes closed to the world around me.
If memories could be eaten, they would come in the form of pumpkin pie. It tastes like the middle school Thanksgiving play with Pilgrims and Indians. It tastes like crispy red, gold, and orange leaves blowing down the street with every gust of autumn wind. It tastes like being home with the whole family because school's out and no one has to work. It tastes like laughter. It tastes like a prayer of thanks over a home-raised turkey on the family farm and feeding apples to the horses. It tastes like pulling the holiday decorations out of the attic. It tastes like setting the table with the gold-tipped china and learning how to fold the cloth napkins with Rebecca. It tastes like Reana singing while she plays the piano and the cat makes off with a piece of the ham and the dog throws all his weight against the sliding glass door, demanding entrance to see to it that justice is served. It tastes like reading a book with a warm blanket while rain beats on the windows. It tastes like Bing Crosby singing about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. It tastes.. it tastes....
When I came to, I was sitting in my roommate's car with an empty paper plate in my hands and a plastic fork licked clean. Oh no, thought I, what have I done? I resolved to put the incident behind me and move forward with dignity.
I am not a frequenter of the snack bar at work, but yesterday I noticed a white box sitting on the counter, offering the PP-word for a price. Exercising great restraint to silence the snarling beast within, I turned away and walked calmly back up to my desk. I had evaded the intruder for the moment, but that golden crust and fluffy orange filling haunted me for the rest of the day. Even when I went home that night, I itched for the PP-word. This morning when I came in to work, I had to deliver mail to one of the offices downstairs, and as I passed the snack bar, I saw that the PP-word had been labelled as "Free: Please Eat!"
It tastes like snuggly warm scarves and the clicking sound of your favorite boots on the sidewalk, the leaves crunching beneath them. It tastes like getting lost in a corn maze with your friends and finding the perfect pumpkin in the muddy patch. It tastes like watching Miracle on 34th Street during the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It tastes like Little League baseball practice in the park down the street. It tastes like reading newspaper comics on an overcast morning. It tastes like school fundraisers and Church picnics. It tastes like joy!
And though it may have left me with a bit of a stomach ache, thank you, Pumpkin Pie, for the inspiration to pick up blogging again.