The Sunday before last I was finishing a five-day stint as board member for an organization I care a lot about: partly for its mission to recognize and support non-theistic cultural Jews and partly because the people in leadership are a smart, funny, savvy bunch. Partly because we are well fed when we come together. There were the expected dozens of bagels, seeded and cinnamon; the sandwich fixings with pastrami and roast beef; pickles — lots of dill pickles — and a catered tray of lamb chunks and yoghurt from a Middle Eastern café.
And tuna salad, twice. Mounds of lightly mayonnaised fish with celery wrapped and unwrapped.
These days I try to be vegan until six, the title of a book on moderately adapting a diet without animal protein of any sort by abstaining from eating it until dinnertime. I don’t have any trouble following this regimen most of the time: sticking with natural crunchy peanut butter and bananas on whole wheat toast in the morning. Making lentil soups and such for lunch.
But then I get the craving for — tuna salad — and find excuses, besides socialization, to make midday dates with this offering on the menu, even as I pull away the breads I can no longer enjoy in any quantity, using fork to dig in.
It may be morbid, but I think I remember that the late brilliant comedienne Gilda Radner was quoted as saying that perhaps it was the prodigious amount of tuna salad she enjoyed — every day lunch — that caused her ovarian cancer. She was of course trying to turn into wry comedy a situation that was beyond explainable, the cancer that killed her too soon and so young.
She knew what she liked, craved even. Something I rarely do.
There were times in my life that I indulged a near addiction to a particular brand of thick, red, quasi-licorice ropes made only by a company in Northern California. When we moved to Atlanta more than 20 years ago, family members would send care packages with bags of them, a treat I can no longer enjoy as my blood sugar readings inch up. And I once loved cheese and tomato omelets with buttered English muffins, and the occasional onion ring, and See’s vanilla crèmes.
None of which I can even think of ordering or purchasing, or very very rarely.
This past Sunday, Mother’s Day, I was without children: one being in Brooklyn, two of them spending time together at Oakland’s Fairyland with their own small children. They sent lovely flowers; a pair of new style summer walking shoes I had been looking at; a bath bomb — a bubbly ball of luxurious oils. They said kind things on Facebook. They phoned. They did what was possible at such distances to make me feel appreciated, even as I claim publicly that the history of this holiday — a day for mothers to call for peace and justice — has been completely corrupted.
But still I felt bereft, cut off, and lonely. (Despite the warm and loving presence of my husband).
I woke up craving a visit to — Waffle House. I wanted that omelet with egg yolks and extra cheddar. The tomatoes would be optional. But then I thought — what about a tuna salad? This would make me feel I was in some control of this disconnected day.
I would find one for lunch at Whole Foods in the salad bar. It would satisfy my need to indulge myself with some familiar, cherished food. And I had not had one in at least 8 days.
For the first time ever, this item was missing. I was beside myself with unreasonable disappointment, even anger.
On Mother’s Day, yet?