Somewhere, at some time, the two became intertwined in my mind. It just didn’t seem right to do one without the other. I ate when I read and I read when I ate.
I remember practicing sounding-out words on the back of the box of Corn Flakes when I was a first-grader.
As a middle-schooler, I loved nothing better than to spend a weekend on the window seat which ran along the long wall of windows in the dining room, with my nose buried in a mystery, a plate of cookies or crackers by my side.
When I got older I would make a pot of tea and pour one cup after another as I turned the pages of thick leather-bound classics. I’m pretty sure I absentmindedly ate almost an entire fruitcake when I read Jane Eyre. Even now, just thinking about Mr. Rochester brings on a curious craving for candied fruit and pecans. And I’m not a big fan.
All this reading and chewing was fine when I was young, but now, well, it just won’t do. I finally realized that my habit of reading while I eat, or, the other way around, often means I take in far more than I’d intended. Just one more page, turns into another chapter. One serving turns into two.
So, I’m giving it up.
It’s funny how things taste when you take the time to savor them. To hear the crunch of celery, taste the burst of sweetness in a slice of watermelon or consider the complex soft-yet-tough texture of a banana.
I’m not a complete stranger to the mindfulness of paying attention to what you eat. I once attended a retreat, as the guest of a friend. I don’t remember a single thing about that Saturday except lunch. We were served a tuna salad sandwich on whole-grain bread and we were asked not to talk during the meal. We were to focus on the food that had been prepared for us. I can close my eyes and see that sandwich, and the dark bread. I can still taste the tuna, and even the flavor of the herbs mixed with it.
The other morning I was up before anyone. I made myself an espresso and a plate of fruit and took it out to the patio to eat. I didn’t take the morning paper with me. I didn’t pick up a book. I left the computer inside.
Looking down at my plate, at the sliced strawberries I’d arranged along the edge, I noticed for the first time how a thin slice of the red berry resembles the interior of seashell. The outer skin is pebbled and gives way to a lighter band of pink on the inside. It is delicate and beautiful
Picking up a blueberry, I bit into it and for the first time in my life, looked at the interior. I was surprised to discover that blueberries are actually green on the inside. Does everyone but me already know this?
It’s hard to break an old habit. Especially when it is wrapped with pleasure. But, I’m trying. I’ll just have to do it one little bite at a time.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org