Come to the party

Hello, fine people. I’m tearing up as the responses to the mental health survey come in. More than one hundred of them have come in thus far, and people are pouring out their hearts. Some are remaining anonymous and I will always respect that, and others are stepping forward to speak their piece. You’ll see some of those published soon and I welcome more voices. I don’t want this to be a solo project.

What’s standing out to me thus far is that well over half of the respondents say they have remained completely silent about what they’re going through. Mainly because they don’t want to be thought of as crazy, seen as weak or even bullied because of what they’re going through. This is something that we’re doing to each other. Seeing another human in pain and dismissing that because of its origin seems antithetical to what the industry is about: Hospitality, sustenance, welcoming.

Let’s give each other a break in 2016, maybe? Mental illness isn’t catching, but empathy is.

Also: Currently, 66% of respondents are saying they’re using alcohol to seek relief (plenty of other substances, too—y’all like to smoke up!). I certainly enjoy a cocktail, myself, but I’m getting the sense from responses that a certain amount of this is about self-medicating. If there’s someone out there in the community with more experience who would care to get involved and perhaps address the substance abuse or addition aspects of this, or share right here.

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

Feeding my beast

I tried to win friends with sugar because I was sure that was the only way I could. Other kids were cooler, prettier, had fancier toys, but I figured out early on that if I could bake and make extra-strong Kool-Aid, they’d keep coming to my house. The good ones came back even when the pitcher ran dry and the pan was empty, but I always felt a little guilty for not having anything to feed them.

I suppose that meant something like friendship, and certainly community. Even as a kid, I knew my people when I saw them—the ones who got quiet for a minute while taking that first bite, maybe even closed their eyes to shrink their universe down to the tip of their tongue. And then, AND THEN, they’d want to talk about it.

E. did. Even though he’d been practically wedded to my best friend since before any of us could drive, when we all ate together, E. and I were tuned into a channel only the two of us could hear.

“Is that ginger? I think it’s fresh ginger.”

“I dunno, my mom only has it powdered in the spice cabinet, but I’m gonna find out.”

“I want to try this recipe, but it calls for…tamarind.? What the hell is that and where can we get it?”

“I guess I can go try Kroger?”

“Dude, that would be awesome. When I’m a chef and I open my own place, you’re totally my taster, right?”

“Totally.”

And he totally did marry my friend and become a chef, but the restaurant—his restaurant—never happened because the drugs bled the dream out of him first. I don’t know, maybe this thing was coiled up inside him all along, and the heat of the kitchen made it wake, swell and strike. Maybe it slithered out from the grease trap and wound around him slowly, but either way, he was stuck. He stopped coming home to his wife, daughter and twins-to-be, preferring the company of the people in the half-shadows, like him. When he did show up at the kitchen table, sweaty and bloody-knuckled (a server’s ex had needed to be taught a lesson—and yes of course, he was screwing her), I could no longer tune into his frequency.

He’s a chef, my friend and I nodded. That’s just what happens to them. That’s what we had learned at 24.
Continue reading Feeding my beast

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

Speaking Out

In October 2015, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the TerraVita Food & Drink Festival in Chapel Hill, NC. Each member of the panel was asked to talk for a few minutes on how they use their culinary capital to benefit their community. Here’s roughly what I had to say.

I am delighted and I am lucky to have a chance to speak with you today about two subjects that are increasingly intersecting in my work, namely:

1. My crazy intense love of food.
2. And, well, being crazy.

I’ve been a writer for the past big chunk of my life and mentally ill with depression, anxiety and a panic disorder for all of it — but it took getting a platform as a food journalist for people to listen to me.
At first, I was just caught up in the deliciousness of it all. The fabulousness and the sensual pleasures — Yay, bacon! Oooohhh…pimento cheese. Calloo callay for cake (and pie).

And what I found out pretty quickly was that if you can find this common ground of pleasure with people, you can also start to talk a little bit about the pain. Because we all use a certain amount of sugar to balance the sour . You have to to be able to get up and be a human being in the world on any given day.
Continue reading Speaking Out

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page