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by C. Jeanette Tyson

In the morning, before I have to do anything strenuous, such as speak,
or spell my name, I have espresso. I put a little milk in it, not too much, heated for 45 seconds in the microwave because I donít like the
way the steamer works on the machine. I occasionally make a second one
but generally the mood passes before I drink it, unless, perhaps, the morning is rainy and the night was long.

A while after that I have a concoction that starts with orange juice and ends with all kinds of foul tinctures, green algae, aloe vera, flaxseed oil and whatever else I believe might help me fight the ravages of time, gravity, work and two strong-willed five-year-oldís.
Yum, down the hatch.

Meanwhile the green tea brews.

Then, after an amount of time only I know how to calculate, sometime
after school drop-off but before the first conference call, I have
three-seed toast with peanut butter. And the green tea.

So thatís the morning ritual. Lunch is generally a protein smoothie or
a can of salmon. Occasionally I splurge and put pickled peppers in that
salmon but itís faster just to eat it out of the can. (In case youíre
wondering, yes, I do work alone at home, with the only witnesses to my
bizarre behavior being the aforementioned youngunís.) Cookies,
preferably something with chocolate, follow.

Dinner, well, dinner I just go wild. A few bites of chicken, a piece of
fish, salads in the summer, soups in the winter, a stolen bite of the
kidsí pasta.

Right before I go to bed, two sips of orange juice. Not more, not less.

So call me and my little food habits crazy. But Iím not the only one.
My father liked to have a bowl of cereal before he went to bed. He was
especially fond of Frosted Flakes. I can see him sitting alone there
now, in the white glow of the kitchen light, tired from a day on the
farm, hunched over his bowl, wearing just his t-shirt.

A friend eats a banana every morning in the car on the way to work,
never any other time of day and never when sheís traveling. Another
keeps a two-pound bag of sugared ginger in her desk, possibly just to
stomach those long meetings. For others, thereís turkey meatloaf for
round-the-clock protein fixes, liquid yogurt for getting-the-kid-to-school
stamina, Cheetos (crunchy, not puffy) for looming deadlines, afternoon
ketchup and parmesan (yes, alone) for exactly what, I didnít dare ask.

How do these little food things become such a part of our lives? These
are our own personal peculiarities; theyíre not social, not sentimental,
not even charming. Certainly some of it is age and awareness. We
finally admit that our bodies canít function as the garbage dumps they
were in our younger years and figure out what fuel makes the olí jalopy
run the race best. We keep what we can handle from all the diets, fads
and friendsí cupboards.

But I think thereís something else to it. This week I made airplane
reservations to take the children to see my family for Christmas, and
pressed friends about coming here for Thanksgiving. Now you and I both
know these events are not going to be whoo-hoo margarita-on-the-beach
times. But we preserve these rituals to mark time, gauge change, remind
ourselves of our place in the world, to add some structure to the
general chaos. We preserve them to put some perspective on our year, on
all the years.

Maybe coming back day after day to our own peculiar food habits is the
way we process our days. Maybe itís like yoga.

The practice of yoga is just that, a practice. You unfurl the same mat
every day, twist and stretch your body in the same way. Despite this
repetition, however, or because of it, you realize just how different
every day is. You observe the minute changes, whatís looser, whatís
tighter, whatís stronger, whatís stopping you. You stay right there on
the mat and look hard at your day through the lens of your body.

One weekend I visited a friend on the coast. The first night we had
grilled fish and sweet, buttered spinach. We opened a great cabernet
and sat on the deck and watched the sun set. It was a show of shyness;
the ball was there but kept tucking back into the clouds, like dreams
slipping through your fingers.

The next night, we had grilled fish and tender spinach and another big
cabernet. For our amusement, the sun outlined in electric gold the
precise form of the clouds banked in front it, a ring around the
collections of tears.

The next night: fish, spinach, red wine. This time the sun raged
against the coming night, big and red, in glorious free-fall.

We had the same dinner three nights in a row. Or did we?

Iím all for variety, too. After all, if I ate the same thing all the
time, Iíd probably be asked not to write this column anymore.  All Iím
saying is, go ahead and be a good Austin mama and keep your food
fetishes weird.

They may be the very things that connect you most deeply to the most
ordinary day.

C. Jeanette Tyson is mama to Jackson and Maddy and AustinMama.com's
beloved Foodie.


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