“I bet there’s good stuff to eat there,” the voice on the phone says.
I sigh. “Yeah, a ton of restaurants.” Because it’s true. Just like I was amazed by the wide array of offerings available to me when I moved from Central Maine to Cleveland, it’d be hard to not notice how many more restaurants there are in Dallas-Fort Worth, my new home of the past few months. Especially now in the age of food delivery apps. You can conjure up a stranger to deliver you a meal at a moment’s notice.
You don’t even really have to talk to the foodbringer, just show up at the right place at the right time.
I typically greet them by name and introduce myself before snatching the goods.
But they have half handed the food to me by the time I do my intro anyway. And would probably be just as happy to hand it to me without identity verification.
I could be miffed by this, I guess, this tendency to just hand over the food I paid for with no questions. Because it’d be easy for a stranger to sidle up at the right time and steal my dinner. But it’s hard making a living delivering food off apps. So the drivers are in a rush. Gotta grind hard in the gig economy, after all.
I just make sure I’m there when they get to me, so that no one else beats me to the punch.
Those Moments When I Worry I’m Just a Very Intelligent Digestive System
When I ask locals what there is to do in Dallas, they usually respond with the names of restaurants. A request for entertainment is taken to be a call for dinner recommendations.
Whenever I talk to my mother on the phone, she wants me to regale her with tales of what there is to eat down here. People from back home quiz me about the quality of Mexican food (note: it’s high) and the quality of barbecue in Texas. (Note: It’s also high. Regardless of the restaurant, I’m finding you can’t go wrong with brisket and mac and cheese.)
But I’m less excited about all the new restaurants down here than everyone wants me to be.
It might be because I gained 20 pounds selling my house and should probably do something about that.
And it might be because I’ve started back into an old unwelcome cycle where I worry I’m just a very intelligent digestive system.
I worry that I’m motivated primarily to seek out food and put it in my body. Every action centered around consuming and indulging. Seeking the incredible high that my body has been wired for — nature’s way of ensuring I don’t starve to death but overkill in an environment where food is plentiful and more calorie laden than what my ancestors ate.
There are moments when I worry I’ll squander what little time I have on this earth to carnal pursuits that are over almost as soon as they begin. That I’m just an engine burning through fuel, regardless of what it requires to feed me.
“Independent and Food Motivated”
I’m filling out a personality questionnaire for each of my cats (a necessary part of signing them up with local veterinary and pet-sitting services). I’m working on the one where I’m asked to describe my oldest cat, a 17-year-old British Bombay cat with intestinal lymphoma that I’ve been managing in concert with feline oncologists and internists.
I know it’s in vogue to call your pets “fur babies,” but with everything he and I have gone through over the past year, I’m starting to unironically feel like I am his mother.
His treatment at this point primarily involves steroids, which slow his illness, give him more energy, and incidentally ease the arthritis in his hip. They do, however, have an annoying side effect — for him and for me.
They make him really hungry all the damn time.
He’s constantly begging for food. Even when he has it.
He was always a big eater, even after he got sick. At that point, he’d just eat too much and throw up, eventually losing a lot of weight (which is how we knew there was something wrong with him, although the vet thought at first it might be allergies).
But now, his life seems practically centered around it.
I hesitate for a moment before filling out the blank space to describe him with the following words: “Independent and food motivated.”
“Same though,” I say aloud, to no one, after I’ve written it.
Living to Eat and Eating to Live
But high-minded ideals are one thing. Neurochemicals are quite another. And I’m a fool for this one restaurant that I’ve discovered. Where the prices are good. The food is decadent. The service is good.
I bite into a fully loaded sandwich, a whirl of flavors hitting me all at once, causing my tongue to practically spasm. I feel my eyes roll back in my head as I perceive the layers.
Chemicals flood my system. I’m helpless to fight this. So I don’t even try.
Don’t you want to be more than this? I ask myself after the food is gone. Isn’t there more to life than consuming or being consumed? More than destroying something and getting rid of the evidence later?
With my belly full of food, it’s easy to be resolute. Say that I’m sure. Yes, of course there is. And I tell myself that I’ll be noble later. That this was just a one-off.
The next time I feel hunger pains though, the feeling is back. The all-too-precarious struggle between living to eat and eating to live.
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