As I struggle with feeding myself over the summer -away from the comforts of a college meal plan- I ponder over the relationship I developed with food throughout my childhood. While I eat three veggie hot dogs and an apple for dinner, my friends are cooking lasagna dishes for themselves. Why is this?
Being on the spectrum means I have issues with cooking and executive function in general, but I think my inability to craft a meal goes beyond that. Growing up in a working class family, with an absent single-parent, I was left to feed myself with whatever foodstuffs was available. Without anyone to teach me to cook, I relied on the microwave as my sole provider of sustenance.
Baked beans? Dump the bean slime into a bowl and pop that baby in the microwave. Leftovers? Nuke it. Mac n’ cheese? Get served by that instant microwavable mac n’ cheese (what a life saver). I must confess: I never actually cooked food in a boiling pot until college.
Even now, regardless of my newfound experiences actually making food, the line between instant meals and lengthy food prep remains blurry. Are frozen meals on the same level as microwavable mac n’ cheese? Is canned sauce incredibly worse than sauce made from scratch? I haven’t the slightest clue; don’t get me started when it comes to grocery shopping and actually planning out meals, because I procrastinate that shit more than a book report due on finals week.
My relation with food can be broken down into a simple concept: instant gratification. Throughout the school year I have healthy and well-cooked meals available at the swipe of a student ID card. When summer comes around, though, that convenience flies out the window and shit hits the fan. Smelly shit.
My meals default towards a culmination of snacks: granola bars, fruits, oatmeal, instant mac n’ cheese, etc. Nothing substantial in isolation, but in sum these items are enough to satiate my diet until dinner. Even when it comes time to eat dinner, I decidedly eat three veggie hot dogs and an apple instead of cooking black beans and tomato sauce, which is a far more fulfilling meal.
At the end of the meal I feel guilty both for my health and the environment when I look into the trash to see that it’s filled with more wrappers than peels. I guess it’s a challenge that will require of me a great deal of time and effort to overcome.