Day 3: Food without pleasure.

Food is such an inextricably linked part of my world, my aesthetic – heck, my husband is a chef and I have a Master’s degree in Food Studies. You can imagine why the magical internet linked our online dating profiles together that fateful day, and you can further imagine how much of our pleasure derives from sharing food and cooking.

Yesterday morning and afternoon were fine, as I generally do not eat extravagant or terribly exciting foods during my work day (though sometimes I do since we work in a vibrant Mexican, Vietnamese neighborhood of San Diego), but when I got home I began to stare down the monotony of another dinner of pasta, rice, or beans as its main component. I haven’t been really hungry, per say, because I am filling myself with foods that satiate, but my palette is screaming for flavor and my heart misses that from which I derive pleasure: the creativity of dreaming up my next dish, the excitement of culling together the ingredients and making them meld into a wonderful treat. When you work really hard all day, and life is hectic, sometimes the most fulfilling moment in that 24 hours can be a great meal and a lovely glass of wine. At least for me it can be.

I am writing a book on prison food and I write a lot about the monotony of repetitive meals and the deprivation of choice. I am very, very slightly glimpsing toward that feeling of having simply meals that fill the belly rather than ones that delight. I have read that with poverty comes a huge amount of boredom, and I am beginning to see how detrimental to spirit that can be.

Food is a true pleasure. Almost universally people find happiness and community in it. It is the one thing we are forced to do every day to keep ourselves alive that we can also turn into moments of sheer happiness. All of that changes on food stamps.