Let’s consider this food math — it takes hours to cook up a meal and only minutes to polish it all off. As for the theory of satiety — when the hunger bells first chime and then ring, you are sure that you have the stomach to guzzle up a several-course meal, but once you have had your fill, another helping or even half of it can seem like another repulsive full meal. If food, a shared meal, can bring people together, then hunger can push you to do the inevitable.
It must have been one of those school-going days when I woke up from the wrong side of the bed. Biology class had barely begun and I could hear my tummy rumbling louder than the teacher — a nun who deemed disciplining her students her only purpose of existence other than meting out the life story of the living — explaining Anatomy of the Stomach. I wondered if this lesson would cover solutions to a growling belly, but I would never know if it did for all I heard was the tummy screaming complaints and the brain demanding food.
This story finds its beginning that morning when I chose to skip breakfast for the reason that Mother’s fluffy idlis had been paired up with a dangerous green-looking accompaniment instead of the usual spicy coconut chutney. Mother harboured a fascination for green as much as we detested it. She often fed us details about its greatness (as I am known to do since donning the Mother’s hat) that we did not wish to know because as much as an amazing cook she was, her green dishes were yet to become a hit. That afternoon, in my hungry stupor, I realised that green was not bad and when it was simmered with cubes of cottage cheese, it was tasty even!
As I sat on that first bench trying fervently to get my focus off my tummy and on to the details of the stomach on the board, my eyes noticed a chocolate on the floor. How could I have expected my starving mind to see logic, judge right from wrong, the consequences of owning what is not yours, so I used my feet to drag it towards me and when the teacher had her back towards to the class, I tore open the wrapper — bite, chew and gulp. In all the frenzy, I don’t remember tasting it. Minutes before we broke for lunch, the teacher noticed the missing chocolate (that had taken a fall from her desk and travelled close to mine). At first, it was a casual question that soon gravitated into a threat to continue class through the lunch break once she was convinced it had been taken from right under her nose.
That day I understood that owning up to your mistakes takes more courage and grit than keeping away from trouble. That afternoon and every one after that I relished Mother’s lunch like never before, but had to stay back after school to clean up the class as punishment and write an imposition after. The only silver lining in that dark cloud of embarrassment was that two last benchers were caught eating a snack; hence it was three of us #inittogether.
This Ramadan, let us remember that while some of us go about our day as always, there are others who have had their last meal and last sip of water before day break. As food brings people together at the table, it is worth remembering that someone gave a little of themselves, taking hours to plan, prepare, chop, grind, pound and stir by a stove, breaking a sweat, to create what gets polished off in minutes. That food tastes best when shared, for even greed and hunger says a satisfactory ‘enough’ when full. That one person’s plenty could be another’s only meal.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha