Well actually, it wasn’t a bucket of KFC, but rather a two piece individual breast and wing meal. You know the special meal that comes in the box with two side dishes; personally I have always been partial to cold slaw and mashed potatoes without the sloppy gravy. And don’t forget the necessary spork and wet wipe napkin to round out the dining adventure.
It was a day like any other, except for the fact that I’m on spring break from school and my husband has been out of town, translation: I have lots of free time. It was nearing lunch time and I decided to treat myself and this day was the day. You see, my husband gets sick from most fast food restaurants, so I eat at them without him and KFC has been a twice a year treat for me when he is out of town. A quick trip around the big block and I was back on my sofa with my box of KFC and a new book by Geneen Roth, Women, Food and God.
I ate my wing first, I hate them because there is nothing to them and quite frankly I just wanted to eat something and it was lunchtime. In just a few minutes there was nothing left of the wing but teeny tiny bones in the bottom of the box. Next I opened the red plastic top of the container of mashed potatoes. I wonder what happened to those small Styrofoam cups; the spork scraping the foam was just like the nails on a chalk board sound, oh I remember it well. Styrofoam vs. plastic, I guess plastic is the lesser of two evils in today’s world. I dipped my spork into the mashed potatoes, they were really bland so I globed on some spreadable butter, and at least that’s what the package said it was, “spreadable butter.” Ugh, still bland. I finished the mashed potatoes anyway.
Okay, two items down and I can finally start eating what I like, first up, the chicken breast. Biting in, the original recipe coating takes me back to the memory of being a kid and enjoying a summer day picnic in my favorite park with my family. I loved the park; it overlooked the marina, the bay, the amusement park and the islands in the distance. Those were the days of single digit ages for me, before my parents’ divorce and all of their growing drama. Each bite of the chicken breast became a memory marathon.
I continued to enjoy the KFC; I liked the taste, but I wonder now if I tasted the chicken or the memories of childhood? At about half way through the breast I was bored, I noticed it didn’t taste good anymore; I dropped the remainder of the breast to the bottom of the box. I started reading my book.
Finally it’s time during the meal for the pice de rsistance, the cole slaw. I swoon for slaw; I can remember the sweet crunchy cold taste in my mouth on those hot summer days at the park. The sad news? This cole slaw must have been too close to the cold part of the freezer since it ended up being a slushy and icy cabbage crunch-a-thon. Overall, it was a disappointing lunch and let’s only mention in passing the trip to bathroom that greeted me later.
By now I was on page five of my book and read the sentence, “So you figure the best you can get out of life is cold vegetable soup?” Translation: “So you figure the best you can get out of life is a KFC breast and wing meal?” Ouch. I’m not knocking KFC, only seeing what was showing up for me at that moment on my family room sofa.
There I was, simply noticing that I had thousands of choices on how to feed myself that afternoon and I chose comfort. Yes, comfort. I noticed that I was lonely since my husband was away; we tend to eat most of our meals together and on his stomach schedule since he’s typically more aware of his hunger than I am. So perhaps what I really wanted was a hug, a blanket or few kind words for myself; instead I chose the comfort of a past memory and I attempted to replicate it with food. I mean let’s face it, you can go anywhere in the USA, in fact it doesn’t matter if it’s the year 1974 or 2010, KFC tastes the same anywhere and at any time. So I wanted to feel good, safe and calm and rather than taking that time and looking at my feelings, I unconsciously got in my car and drove to fast food to sooth myself.
Was I hungry? Honestly, I don’t know even know if I was hungry for food or if it was just the acceptable time to eat. I’m aware that sometimes I do things because it’s the “right” or “proper” thing to do, rather than do what I really want to do when I want to do it. I’m unconsciously busy trying to be the good girl, rather than make waves or speak up for myself. But that day I was alone, I had no one that I needed to answer to, no one to piss off and no one to seek approval from, it was simply just me and my feelings.
And I noticed that my best life at the moment entailed delayed gratification, I ate the wing first, thus clipping my ability to fly metaphorically right from the start. And I waited for the cole slaw dessert; I saved it for last, or was it that I saved myself for last. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the cole slaw, it still wasn’t worth saving. Does some part of me believe that I’m not worth saving? Do I unconsciously put myself last?
I compartmentalized my meal, I ate things in order; not tasting this and having a little of that, but rather noticing that I had to finish what I had started in order to move on to the next item. How much of my life do I “practice being” with this attitude? Can my using my God given gifts and talents to help make the world a better place come before unloading the dishwasher? What would it be like if I put away the laundry with my essence of playfulness, energy and brilliance?
I’m embarrassed to admit that I have a table that seats six, another that seats four and a third cozy table that holds two people. And rather than sitting at any of those tables, I chose to sit on the sofa and eat on my family room ottoman. I’m noticing that I didn’t want to feast on my food, just like some part of me is scared to death of feasting on my life; some part of me would rather stay small, shrouded behind the veil of casualness and ease.
I wonder how often that feeling of boredom comes over me; discovering that it was just that darn boredom again, lurking in front of something that was not what I expected or hoped it would be. Do I drop things like the chicken breast, because I’m done with it or that it doesn’t fill me the way I thought it would? How many times have I sat with boredom or dropped people or projects and then watched my feelings morph into sadness or anger or worse yet, even emptiness?
So I ask myself again, is the best I can get out of life a KFC individual breast and wing meal? I don’t think so, and yet I settled for it. I settled for it when I was a kid, and I settled for it again as an adult. I know life was not very comfortable as a child, so I turned to food to make it look better and even taste better. I’m finding that eating greasy, salty or sugary food has been a portal for me to slip through for years; past the border guards of parental rules, social norms and everyday pressures of life. And most recently, with an unsuspecting box of KFC, I found what I really wanted most in that moment was comfort and to be living a life that was larger than the one that I was presently living. What a really amazing gift to discover in a meal that doesn’t actually come with a toy surprise, it’s okay, I found my own.