By: Sofia Dewey
My father ate a mixture of oatmeal, rice, seaweed, bananas, raisins, and honey out of a cleaned out whey protein container every morning for the first eight years of my life. My grandmother, a child of war, referred to it as bird seed. My dad called it his grains, and usually followed it with a slew of natural vitamin supplements and an hour of weighted, holistic stretches in the basement.
My dad was seventy when I was born, and had not eaten red meat or drunk wine in 35 years. He had spent his youth in a crazed, workaholic corporate lifestyle, and his middle aged period as a hippie sculptor that moonlighted as a medium in the flats of Cleveland. At the very least, Ronald Dewey is one for the books.
He packed my lunch everyday up until third grade with a whole grain, organic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a ziploc of carrots and/or fruit cup, and a small box of raisins. For all my stories of him– an eccentric, spiritual man who was my very first best friend– I often forget that he shaped my life’s perspective on food.
During the most defining years of my childhood, I was raised on 12-grain bread, brown rice, broccoli stalks, and sugar-free gum. When I was six, my father told me I was hypoglycemic, and spent the next few years conditioning me to fuel my body with natural sugars and a consistent eating schedule. I didn’t taste bacon until I was eight, and only tried wonder bread for the first time at a school cafeteria in sixth grade. I ate cheerios with raisins on Saturday mornings and religiously followed the only real rule I was ever given by my dad: no soda. As I grew older and spent a considerably less amount of time under his influence, I drifted from the unspoken expectations we had shared while we lived together: I ate froot loops, fried turkey bacon, and occasionally bought frosted pop tarts. Even so, I could never really shake the habits that had been ingrained in me since I was a toddler. I took (and take) adamant stances against anything that is not sugar-free gum, I don’t drink soda, and when I miss breakfast and take my free periods to study, inevitably ending up dizzy, I stock up on clementines and grapes during lunch.
My father no longer eats his grains in the mornings. He has more or less lost his ability to cook, and has forgotten his dedication to weight lifting. Seven years ago he lost so much weight that he still hasn’t gained it back– in favor of fitting into his clothes, he relies on high calorie T.V dinners and less on morning seaweed. My dad is still hesitant about processed sugar, and avoids chocolate at all costs. There are remnants of a life he tried to replicate for me when he first moved out: a pull-up bar rests, collecting dust, in the doorway to his tiny living room, and in his kitchen cupboard sits a four year old box of raisins. Periodically, he will show up to my house, hungry, and open the cabinet that used to house his morning regimens. Periodically, I will buy a new box of raisins to greet him. I don’t particularly like them: I’m not sure why– they are a relatively good source of nutrients, and are almost non-perishable. Maybe it is the memory of my younger self that throws me off: as if she is waiting around the corner for me, eager to hear about the escapades that she and her best friend will get into, wondering why it has taken me so long to visit, and when I will come around again. Perhaps it is the smell that gets to me: my elementary school lunchbox hanging in the air, taunting me, reminding me that I cannot go back.
I have found myself eating cheerios again. When I stopped at Trader Joes’ to pick up nothing more than a pound of asparagus (a story for another day), two rows of dark chocolate covered candies caught my eye at the register. To the left sat almonds, and to the right: raisins. Instinctively, I reached to the right.
Maybe I have not yet reached the point when I will begin to eat out of an emptied protein powder container, but I assume I will get there someday. Most likely, the raisins that once made up a crucial part of my life will return, and I will pass on my oddities to the tiny people in my life that will have no other choice but to copy my movements and eccentricities. So, if you take anything from this, eat those raisins. Try your old vice, your popeye’s spinach, and feed your inner child. It’s hungry.