When I was still young, I hated my vegetables. I’d eat my treats and leave the rest for the trash. Beans involved too much effort to pop into my mouth and cabbage was too rubbery to chew. My mother wouldn’t notice the oddity, though, and neither did my father. They just told me I complained too much and it was wrong not to eat the gnarled vegetables.
I was avoiding the minerals and nutrients that cookies lacked, my mother said. And no matter how much I argued that mashed potatoes were good enough for me, my parents never considered me serious.
But they did more than doubt me. They gave me a reason to finish my whole meal, unattractive though it was. I’m lucky, they said, to have a plate groaning with spinach while poor kids halfway across the world didn’t get a proper meal a day. A double-hazelnut and chocolate chip cookie is a luxury they can’t afford. And therefore it only made sense that I ate all the vitamin-rich foods I got.
How that helps starving kids remains a mystery, but I was much too young to think about the nuances of logic.
It messed with my head, though. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand poverty and global hunger. I was eight and my mother said, “Don’t waste food, there are plenty of people starving.” And being eight and eager to remain the apple of my mother’s eye, I ate the final slice of apple even when I didn’t want it.
I was dining with my friends last night and knew I had eaten enough. But there was some pasta left over, so I grabbed a fork. I can’t help it that I can’t waste food. Because even though I’m twenty-two, I don’t feel satiated until I’d wiped my plate clean.
While at another table sat a kid with tears in her eyes. Her mother coaxed her to finish her meal. And the father threw a stern look at his daughter. “You should be thankful you have food on your plate.” He growled cutting through his wife’s gentle reproaches. “Now eat!” And she eats.
As I sat there, I saw a girl who had already eaten her share, eat the rest too. Just because somewhere someone doesn’t have enough to eat, another young girl gave into the pressure without even realising it could make her sick.