My mom told me not to pet the cat or dog when they were eating.
“They don’t like it,” she summed up. “They’re territorial.”
Whatever that meant. I was only 5 or so. Just don’t do it. Got it.
I never really had a pet that I took care of. Our family had dogs and cats of the outside variety. No perfectly-quaffed poodles or sofa Shih Tzus. We had one indoor cat and one indoor dog before I turned 7. But Tiger ran away and Kelly the Collie up and died. The other animals?
We had a stray named Frisky. He was a tan, lean mutt from our country neighborhood. He stayed outside and my parents fed him scraps. He stuck around, occasionally let us pet him and hooked up with another pup. She was a mutt as well with doberman coloring. Black with brown brows and tips. She gave birth to over 27 puppies during her short life and we had an unintentional puppy mill under our porch.
The dogs got sick, some came down with Parvo (or that’s what I was told), some were shot because they teased our horses (One was caught nibbling at a run-down horse, meaning-some dog(s) or coyote had run the horse to death and then one of our dogs gnawed at its carcass. True!), some ran off. And at some point, we no longer had any dogs. I don’t know what happened to all of them. I really don’t.
We lived on a small farm. Dogs were expendable and unconsidered. Just a fact of life. I didn’t start caring for animals until I met my husband’s cats for the first time. I don’t mean to write so callously about these dogs, but I was a child and nobody asked my opinion as to the condition, well-being or healthcare of said animals. I can see now, it was a problem.
However, for their brief life, they ate well. Mom and Dad threw leftovers, scraps, meat, bones, gravy, dog food in their bowl on the hill. Also, there was an all-you-can-eat mouse buffet under the house for our cats; the occasional rabbit for the dogs. I didn’t understand or research the eating habits of domesticated beasts. That was above my paygrade. And in the 80s? No interwebs. Even if there had been, my parents wouldn’t have sprung for the luxury of computer connectivity.
Do you like to eat alone?
When it comes to eating, I get it, dogs and cats are in it to win it. The biggest mouth gets most of the food. And everybody knows it. You better be cool with that or risk a fight over vittles. Big dog on the porch always wins.
But thankfully, people are not territorial. We don’t push each other away from the bowl. We don’t have to eat shoulder-to-shoulder in a trough of slop. We all get our own individual portion of the beautifully-baked pie. But after weight loss surgery, my pie’s a little different.
Fixing dinner for your family after weight loss surgery kinda sucks. Knowing that you can’t enjoy what you’re preparing because you’re nervous about the outcome makes eating not as enjoyable as it once was. Whipping up a dinner or meal for others isn’t much fun if you can’t really taste it.
I try to make healthy meals, but it’s difficult. The flavor can suffer sometimes from a lack of salt or sugar or calories. That’s okay, but it is an unsatisfying task to cook for others and only provide a hot meal, not a delicious one.
I’m learning to accept it, but it’s so ingrained in my sex and culture. I am learning to eat on my own. Not share in indulgences. Eat my own menu. Savor my healthy cooking. Walk away in the middle of dinner. Allow others to prepare their own choices. Find recipes that satisfy taste and health. But it’s a lonely road to walk sometimes. I miss shared meals and food experiences. I miss connecting over food. It was a large part of my life. The biggest. Sad, but true.
Cooking and eating have been my favorite things. Food and taste and savory meals, those are my bedrock of love. My husband agreed to marry me mainly for my ability to bake an authentic Italian lasagna. Ricotta, not cottage cheese. LOL
My meatloaf was once described as crack. Highly addictive. But I can’t make meatloaf like I used to. Secret ingredient: Dale’s Seasoning. Which has twice the amount of sodium found in regular table salt. Two times more sodium than SALT, which is sodium!
Bad, Meatloaf! Bad!
Salt is toxic. Salt lead to my first round of heart failure. Salt is consumed at 2 to 3 times the amount we should have daily. With my surgery, I am eating significantly less of everything, including salt. So I’m able to put back in some of the sodium I reduced over the years. But I don’t want my family to have it either.
How do I love my family without food?
I have to release the burden/blessing of providing food and find my worth as a mother or wife by providing other things. What are those things though?? LOL I am trying to allow my daughter to have some control over food choice and prep. That’s hard, but she’s ready and able. I have to let go of her apron strings because she long ago dropped mine. I can provide her with self-sufficiency and independence. Those things are much more valuable than meatloaf.
My worth is found in another bowl. A water dish of my own. The one with my name on it. And I don’t have to share it with anyone.
I know there’s a balance to strike. I know that. I’m learning. I’m finding that balance. It’s just hard to change your whole lifestyle on a dime. But I am learning to eat like a dog. By myself. From my own special dish of value and worth.