(by Diana Szabo)
I don't hate food; I love food. But I don't like eating in front of other people. It stresses me out; I get indigestion. Sincerely. It's like the presence of the other person requires so much of my being that there's none left over for digestion. For appreciation, for savoring. I like to be with my food. Spend quality time with my food. Spanning time with my food. And if other people are around, I just can't do it. The food needs—deserves—all of my attention. Me and my food, in perfect harmony.
No, not even with my mum. I can’t even listen to the radio or read when I eat—and how my workaholic self would love to multitask! Charles Darwin lined his room with cork—that’s how annoyed he was with outside noise. It’s just the breed.
Maybe I never developed past infancy, which actually explains a lot. Not least my relationship with my mother. I’m very weird in the way that I eat because I never cook. Never. Very different from mum, a superstar cook with a beautiful vegetable garden, fruit trees, herbs, flowers, medicinal plants—you name it, all tended with the utmost love and care. Cooking and food are absolutely a pleasure and creative outlet for her. (Perhaps it’s in her genes. Back in Hungary, Great-Grandma had a small farm where my mother spent her summers.)
We never really cooked together—I’m a coffee and ice cream at midnight type—but I did sometimes hang around her in the kitchen and watch her work her magic. And yes, that’s when she’d ask and I’d tell her everything that was weighing on my mind, and she always, always had good, level-headed advice.
For me, the maximum effort a food is allowed to have is to be taken out of a packet. So I have a kettle, and I make drinks. I love making sweet, hot, creamy, spiked, exotic drinks. Foamy, milky, frothy—with cinnamon, coconut sugar, more cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, black pepper, honey. These are my specialty because—hey, maybe I do hate food a bit. It messes up my groove. I eat to stay alive, but I drink to travel the universe.
Having a Capricorn moon—which indicates one’s relationship with one’s mother—I’m very blunt and to the point with my mum. I think she finds me cold. (I’m sorry, Mum.) But I do love and admire her. She’s amazing. So practical, so down to earth. Unlike me. She sees through my bullshit every time. And she gets right to the heart of what I'm going through. A saint, she put up with every craze and phase I ever had: my vegan phase, my keto phase, my starch-based vegan phase—the lot. Each time I’d come along with my new solution to the world’s problems, she dutifully researched recipes and cooked whatever I demanded.
One time my mother and I were at a cafe together. Exasperated, I said, "Mum, I can't believe that some people don't mean what they say!" She looked at me like I was insane. "Darling," she said, "most people don't mean what they say." I was genuinely shocked. Why would people say something that isn't true? I mean, what a waste of time! Like, are they planning to tell the truth at some later time? Is it in their plan? Do they have a plan? What are they waiting for? It's always time for the truth. Always. It's never a bad time to say the truth.
My mother meant what she said, and so did I. Here was a meeting of two utterly irreconcilable worlds. I’ve always loved the truth—I’m wedded to it. But most people are willing to betray the truth just to fit in. My mother doesn’t lie, but she sometimes withholds the truth—to stay safe.
My mum’s policy is: “Have fun, be good, but remain safe." Once we were discussing truth-telling, and I was again on my podium, ranting about the importance of putting the truth first. She said, word for word: “The truth-tellers are the first ones to get their heads cut off.” Here my mother was, basically telling me to be untruthful, or suppress the truth, just to avoid getting my head cut off. My mother is more committed to my safety than my happiness, as strange as this sounds. Yes, she probably equates safety and security with happiness. My father, like me, is more prone to outbursts of truth, and my mother duly kicks him under the table to stop him. “Put that truth away, we have to survive!!” But for me and Darwin and Michael Jackson and other unwashed explorers, happiness is discovery and creativity. And so here the artists part ways with the nest-builders. What a wonderful symbiotic world we have! I love my mother, but the truth is my true marriage partner. I’m all grown up and married now. So I appreciate what she brings to the table. I love being cared for, but ultimately I’m not a nest-builder, and I have a different mission in the world.
I had anorexia, which broke my mother’s heart. Imagine my mother—a major league cook, and her daughter refuses to eat. I counted calories obsessively, and she even put up with that. I’ll never forget the time when I asked for a cup of white rice at dinner, and she emerged with the most overfilled cup of rice you’ve ever seen. Yes, it was "one cup," but she did everything she could to try and keep her baby alive and healthy. (It actually breaks my heart writing this.)
So you’re probably getting a picture now. My anorexia is a control thing and a stress response. A house full of Hungarian fire signs was not easy for this highly sensitive, reclusive bookish type, and I controlled the only thing I could. I hope my mother understands. I think she does, because I taught her about high sensitivity and she sincerely looks into the books I give her.
Now when we meet up for our coffees in the cafes, I tell her more about myself and the way I see the world, and hopefully our chaotic and difficult past becomes more intelligible, and it becomes clear that we both love each other very much but that we had different lessons to learn in this life.
My mother is my friend. Like a sister. But I am older than she is, soulfully speaking. So picture these two misaligned creatures in a cafe—me and my younger mother-sister; me ranting and raving, and her seeing through all my bullshit and knowing exactly what's in my heart.
Gosh, I love you, Mum. And I’m sorry I was so difficult.
Spenót (Creamy Spinach)
16 oz. frozen spinach
2 T. flour
5 T. oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 1/2 c. milk
salt and pepper, to taste
Place frozen spinach in a saucepan over low heat and gently cook until tender.
In another small saucepan, combine flour and oil to make a creamy mixture.
Fry over low heat for 2 - 3 minutes; do not brown.
Remove from heat, add garlic, and stir in milk.
Add salt and cooked spinach.
Cook over low heat until mixture thickens.
Transfer to a food processor, and blend until smooth.
Return to the pot and bring to a boil.
Taste for salt and pepper.