Safeway and Self-Control

Updated: Mar 19

the first word

the first, real, long word

i learned to spell was

Safeway

S-A-F-E-W-A-Y

i would lean in to the stranger

unwillingly invited into my secret

as i shared

that the hardest part was which came first

the f or the e

with all the wisdom of someone who still sucked her thumb

teeth bucked slightly out

the first word i learned how to spell

was Safeway

safe haven of food

and candy beckons over tranveyer lines, watching receipts funnel out of black boxes

and tell me i am not capitalism’s dream daughter

tell me a good sale doesn’t make my jewish heart kvell

tell me nothing feels better than a kitchen filled with food

that i like my house prepared for an earthquake

or three

tell me why i continuously anxious i will not get enough to eat

when i have never been hungry


tell me if i bear the remnants of generational trauma

this epigenetic anxiety

i have been too scared to ask

because i am not a victim of anything

if anything i am bewildered by this oxymoron of privilege

why a buffet line feels like a personal challenge

how much can you eat?

why we always order too much at restaurants,

promise to remember our error

than always repeat it again

why we eat fast

faster to make sure no one will take our last bite

why intuitive eating has always been so hard for us

when my mind tells me i should eat more for later

when is later?


i wonder if this has to do with my not too distant ancestors

when they hid in pickle barrels

crossing unfamiliar land

i wonder what food they thought about

when their stomachs growled

i wonder if rations made their shoulders tense

i wonder if those memories

etched onto stomach lining

passed on

haunted those same places


because although true hunger is a stranger to me

i’ve always thought he looked familiar

like i had seen him somewhere

and i can’t quite place it


jews have always had tense relations with food

our religion prescribes

fast and indulgence, fast and indulgence,

in quick, unrelenting spurts

because food

food has always been how we communicate

my jewish calendar is also my menu.


food is our history.


on yom kippur we fast

to remind ourselves of our mortality

to remind us that these skins and bones

can be hollow too

because food is a privilege

because when moses went up to mount sinai

and we were too busy with our golden calves

our golden credit cards, and grocery stores and all-you-eat-buffets

he asked for forgiveness


and centuries later

we ask for forgiveness too

we are artisans at practicing self-denial

self-control

everything in moderation even moderation

living in a society with nine different types of eating disorders

cause didn’t you know gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins

teshuvah

we submit to discipline

and food does not cross our lips

maybe this is why food is always associated with guilt for me


and we are reminded, that it was only with full stomach,

sated from agricultural empires

that art could flourish

that people could turn their eye to beauty

look up from an empty stomach


hunger is a gatekeeper.


so the first word i learned to spell was safeway.

safeway to the promise land

safe

sated

s-a-f-e-w-a-y

and i like a supply and an oversupply of food

because i know food

food is guilt

and family

and religion

and history

and

food is power


(won a Gold Key at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards; won a Silver Medal at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards)

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