Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Hungry Heart

You're on the bus, on your way to someone's house for dinner and you realize how much you are looking forward to it, how hungry you are. Really hungry, only the feeling’s not quite right. The place that hurts, the place the craving is coming from is all wrong. It’s not located in your stomach; the hunger, it’s in your heart.

Your heart is hungry.

Not for love, not romantic love, in any case, but for life, for sustenance, for something that feeds it, nourishes it, gives it energy. It’s gotten a taste of it, and it wants more of it. Your heart, like your stomach, knows now how good the healthy foods are, how good they make it feel.


Getting your life back on track, it’s like trying to kick a sugar addiction: your system wants the sugar because it knows it likes the sugar, and it knows how to handle the sugar, and it knows that the sugar will give it energy, fast. Everyone tells you that it’s not healthy, that you should stop indulging in the instant gratification and cook yourself a proper meal, but cooking a proper meal takes time, and energy, and knowing that it is worth the wait. And you don’t know how ‘worth it’ it is until someone cooks you a meal like that, until someone gives you something that really hits the spot. Then you know.

Then, you know that taking the time to cook a healthy meal is worth it because that meal will fill you up, fill you the way cookies and Hagen Daas never will. And you realize what you’ve been missing, what you’ve been craving, what your starving system has been begging for.

Your heart is no different from you stomach really. Just an organ. Just a muscle. Just another part of you that needs oxygen and exercise and nourishment to keep it strong. Your heart needs oxygen, to keep it from losing its breath. Your heart needs the things that make it race, that make it WANT to race, that make it LOVE the race. Your heart needs to be nourished with the things that give it what it needs to keep strong, to keep going, to keep up with your dreams and your desires and your destiny.

You can fill your heart with whatever you like. Just like you fill your stomach. Some things are better for it than other things. There’s the emotional equivalent to Hagen Daas; pleasures that provide the same kind of brief high and empty calories and eventual (often very quick) crash back down to exactly where you started from. Or lower. It’s not good for you. And you know it.

For whatever reason, however, you indulge in those things. There’s nothing you can do about it. Or, at least, that’s how it feels. You don’t know how to cook. Or maybe you can’t afford the ingredients. Or you simply haven’t the faintest clue where to even begin looking for the things that will fill you up properly. So you don’t even both trying.

You indulge because you’re starving, and something is better than nothing, something is something, at least, and you need something, anything, to keep you going until you learn how to cook, or until you can afford the ingredients, or until you figure out where to look for the things that will satisfy your hungry heart.

Then, one day, someone hands you a cookbook (or you remember that there’s a public library), or you realize that almost every costly ingredient has a healthy, inexpensive substitute, or someone tells you about this amazing little place they discovered 'that you are going to love!' ''

You knew you were indulging. You knew it was unhealthy. You felt gross, like something was missing. And something was. But you didn’t realize how easy it was, to cook up something healthy for yourself. You didn’t think to add some cheap spices you’ve always known you love. You didn’t think to go out exploring, to leave your comfort zone, and stumble into a new corner of the universe that ends up seeming like it was made for you.

Or maybe you just didn’t have the energy.

Your body can’t function properly without a healthy diet to keep it going. (How is your heart any different? How can you exclude your heart from that core of your being?) Well, you can, but you can’t run a marathon on cookies and ice cream. You can sprint, maybe, but even then, if all you have in your system is refined sugar, you won’t get far. You need the good stuff to keep you going; a balanced diet of love and laughter, of all the things that make your heart race, that make it WANT to race, that make it look forward to the marathon.

Once you get going, you don’t want to stop, because even though your heart is pounding harder than it ever has before in your life –harder than it believed itself capable- you realize that it feels good. There’s a rush you’ve been missing out on, the kind you can only get when your system is healthy and fulfilled, and even though you can see the hill up ahead, even though you know there’s no short-cut around it without being disqualified from the race, you smile.

You smile because you know you’ve got it in you to get to the top, because you feel a new kind of hunger, a good kind of hunger in your frantic, pounding, happy heart.

And now you know exactly what to feed it.


Christina said...

Ok these girls ROCK. The Post Punk Kitchen from Brooklyn. Her cookbook that I recently got is Vegan with a Vengeance although lately she focuses on vegan baking yummy chocolate goodness! You will love her food and, especially, her attitude!! <3 Plus they're mostly easy! xoxoxo PS Today I'm trying her recipe for vegan, gluten-free corn bread!

Val said...

I so needed to read this today, because I have been in a struggle re: healthy eating vs. my muffin top (you know, the little bit of extra something that can hang over a person's jeans when she gets to be of a certain age?)

I am all about the protein smoothie right now, and it is awesome...another good cookbook is the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook -it is an older one, but really good, really simple, fresh ingredients...

mer said...

I love the Moosewood Cookbook! My mom used to use it all the time. Too bad my copy is buried in a box in Ontario ... booo!

KD said...

I love it.

It still amazes me that you're able to articulate things like this...