Forgive me, Father, I ate all the Oreos
Posted on February 13, 2015
I have revisited the childhood beverage and found it not lacking: a dessert you can gulp, delivering a cool, filling sensation right to your stomach, right away.
Now when I open my fridge, it jumps out at me, a quick way to pour some sweetness into any pocket of the day. And since I’ve never felt that calories I can sip should count, the chocolate milk keeps flowing.
Hence, my latest fridge-side transgression, continuing a hibernation mode that has involved Pillsbury crescent rolls, Jack’s Naturally Rising frozen pizza and a five-pound bag of Ore-Ida tater tots.
The post-college 20-somethings are a tricky time for habit setting with meals, when small budgets and small kitchens converge with busy lifestyles and muscle memory of the cafeteria buffet. I wonder if my relationship with food will always qualify, in Facebook terminology, as “complicated,” if it will ever cease to be a measure of good or bad behavior in that elementary, Santa-is-watching way, like a report card on my character.
I know many Catholics who struggle to operate in the ordinary time laid out between feasts and famines. I think of the empty nester who is trying to give up Coke and the college student who once stayed on an elliptical machine until she burned the exact number of calories in the Chipotle burrito she had recently consumed. I think of the mom of five who packs a stash of chocolate on her annual retreat and the new mom whose Egg McMuffin powers her drive from daycare to work.
All these temptations come to a head this month, packed with Valentine’s Day, Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, when New Year’s resolutions recede from view and Girl Scout cookies arrive at the front door. I have no doubt it is a matter of faith, that how I respond to the rumble of my stomach affects (and reflects) my mind and spirit.
That’s the premise of Mary DeTurris Poust’s latest book, “Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God.” Now a 52-year-old mother in Delmar, N.Y., Mary has not forgotten her college days when she would count the calories in sugarless gum and nibble on saltine crackers when cake was served.
It wasn’t until a 2009 silent retreat – the strict kind that didn’t allow reading or writing during meals – that Mary paid full attention to the food on her spoon, awakening her palette and quieting her mind.
“Peering into my bowl that weekend,” she writes, “I began to see that the way to God is paved, at least in part, with more mindful eating, more mindful talking, more mindful living.”
Back home Mary tried to recreate the experience, setting aside the newspapers, lighting a candle and eating in silence – a “mindful oatmeal practice,” she dubbed it.
“It became one of the most powerful prayer experiences of my day,” she told me.
Healthful and pleasurable eating, Mary found, naturally resulted when she focused on her loving relationship with God. She discovered in her faith a “template” for moderation and for food’s function in fellowship. She returned from a 13-day pasta-infused Italian pilgrimage having lost four pounds. She thought more deeply about the compulsive jelly-bean snatching she caught herself doing one Easter, trying to hide the evidence by drawing equally from each kid’s pile. And she spoke to a Jesuit priest who offers chocolate-chip cookies after confession, a practice he links to the Psalm “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
That’s where it begins and ends: a divine goodness we don’t hoard or count but savor and share, a love that satisfies our deepest cravings, the kind that sustains.