28 July 2011

Strategic Eating

The downside to a liberal arts education is that while you get to study a little of everything, you really don’t become fully knowledgeable about any of the subjects you study outside of your own major. In my three years of college, I’ve taken classes in Psychology, Statistics, Philosophy, History, Theology, Rhetoric, Literature, Modern Dance, Business, and Classical Mythology; after just one class in each subject, I am no expert in any of those fields. I would not feel qualified to write on those subjects, unless of course I was forced to for the purpose of getting an A from a professor. There is one subject area, however, which I do consider myself to be an expert in: The Strategy of Food Consumption.
                You may be surprised to hear this, but I did not learn how to strategically consume the tastiest foods before others could while pursuing my bachelor’s degree. Rather, I learned the ins and outs of these techniques while growing up in a family that included seven children with very healthy appetites and one mother who detested grocery shopping. Last summer it was very common that my family would literally run out of food on the dinner table before everyone had eaten as much as they wanted. This was largely due to the fact that our largest cooking pans were not quite big enough to make enough food to feed the voracious appetites of our large family. I’m pretty sure that my siblings now appreciate the greater quantity of food available since I have been out of the house.
                Some foods don’t require strategy. For example, it always seems like there are plenty of mashed potatoes to go around. And, while I like pancakes, there’s nothing special about them that would cause me to go to great lengths to secure enough pancakes to meet the desires of my appetite. However, other foods are so delicious that no matter how much is made, purchased, or ordered, the supply simply cannot keep up with the demand. In my family, the foods worth fighting over included fried chicken, pizza, Cloud 9 candy bars, cookies, apple crisp, breakfast casserole, and naan bread, among others. As the oldest of seven children, I was in a prime position to develop many strategies to make sure that I got as much of the highly desirable foods as I wanted. As a disclaimer, I make no pretense that these strategies are in pursuit of an honorable goal. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to be an unselfish person or one who is well fed with delectable treats. Whatever you choose will be the right choice for you, I am sure. If you do go the well-fed route, make sure you don’t try any of these strategies on me—I’m on to you!
Here are some of my top food strategies:
1.       Volunteer to make dinner—My brother Isaac is past master of this particular strategy. You see, the great privilege of cooks is the freedom to taste-test the food that they cook. If only ¾ of the fried chicken actually makes it to the dinner table, who will know? The next best thing is to be the cook’s helper or buddy and get the goodies that way.
2.       Play hide and seek—The same characteristic of refrigerators which leads to gooey, moldy tomatoes and unidentified substances in Tupperware containers is the characteristic which leads us to this strategy: Hide your goodies in the refrigerator! No one will think to look for the container of leftover apple pie under all the vegetables in the veggie drawer! Slip a couple candy bars behind the ice cube trays in the freezer for a treat that no one else will steal away from you.
3.       Get an alarm clock—There aren’t often much leftovers in my family, but on occasion there are some good ones! When there’s just two slices of pizza remaining, and nine people in your family, there isn’t much chance that there will be any pizza left by the usual time you get up. So, you set your alarm for 5:00 am, steal downstairs in your strangely quiet house to eat the leftover pizza breakfast, and then, if you have nothing better to do, go back to bed and let your family wake up to a lack of pizza.
4.       Eat alone—If you eat a snack while other people are around, it is more than likely that you will have to share your food with them. Hungry people around you such as siblings can really demolish the snack you made for yourself. During my teen years, I went through various phases in which I was addicted to eating egg salad sandwiches, popcorn, and omelettes. I would make myself these dishes at any and all times of the day—but I cared so much for my siblings that I didn’t want them to experience the terrible addiction that comes from getting hooked on those foods, so I learned to eat alone, in locations where they wouldn’t see me eating and want to get a taste. Learn to successfully sneak a large bowl of popcorn into your room by hiding it between your body and a chemistry textbook, and you are well on your way to becoming a master of food strategy.
5.       Choose your seat carefully—This strategy works best when your family dinner is served from dishes on the table, rather than from the stove or countertop. Steer your family members who don’t know any better to the seats closest to the salad bowl, while you stealthily reserve a seat for yourself directly in front of the garlic bread. The advantage of sitting next to your favorite dish is that you will be able to serve yourself many helpings of that dish without making it obvious to the rest of the table. I mean, if you’re constantly saying, “Could you pass me another piece of garlic bread?” everyone is going to know that you’re hogging the garlic bread and will ban you from further helpings, which is a very unpleasant experience.

I hope that you may find these tips helpful as you delve into the realm of strategic eating. Enjoy!
Anonymous said...

One strategy I always used while consuming delicious food is stating how disgusting it is or that they wouldn't like it. I also let my hearers know the ingredients involved that I know they dislike. It has worked well for me and has provided me with plentiful food. It's nice to eat with picky eaters at times :P

No(dot dot)el said...

This is fantastic Rachel. The survival techniques in large families is quite complex and serious business. I bet you love the Cheaper By The Dozen movie. And I couldn't agree with you more about number 1 because as the chef you are given free reign. Also number 2 is something that my children do and we have only 4. Course we do live in a community of people so that could be the reason for the hiding of their favorite treats. Funny thing is when they find each others hiding places out , and then ... well that's when it can get ugly. And I'm not even going to tell my kids about 3,4,and 5 or else I'll have children up at 5am to get that last piece of pizza ;) Great post. As always thanks for linking up to FBF.

Heidi said...

Great post! My (at the time future) husband was amazed the first time he came to my house for dinner. The food was consumed so fast he was still on his second forkful and everyone else was finished or on their second helping and the food was gone! In our house you learned to eat fast because if you didn't, you weren't getting a second helping!