When Lisa was diagnosed with anorexia, I picked up book after book, but none of them gave me what I needed: a sympathetic, articulate expert or parent who not only had been through this hell but also was insightful about food in our culture. This book is our effort to be that resource. Yes, eating disorders function like addictions, but no, you can't just say no to food. At work, at home, on the street, America is a twenty-four-hour buffet. We're never more than steps away from an endless stream of gastronomic options screaming: "Eat me!" Even gas stations have mini-marts serving groceries and hot food. (Pay no attention to the noxious fumes around the pumps.) No wonder we all flail around, from the eating disordered to the healthiest among us. Food overload makes me almost long for the rigid olden days of my youth, when families sat down for three meals a day, or at least dinner on weeknights, at specified times and places. In my parents' house, it looked like this:
3:30 p.m. After-school snack
4 p.m. Kitchen closed
6:30 p.m. Dinner
7 p.m. Do dishes; kitchen closed
When certain guests came over, we brought food into the living room, but never our bedrooms. Grocery stores sold the raw materials to make a meal at home, not hot meals to go. Restaurants were for special occasions. There wasn't a lot of room for individual expression, but the day had structure and families had control.
Now, over forty percent of American adults eat out on a typical day and nearly fifty percent of the family food budget goes to food eaten out or pre-prepared, as cooking is considered a time-consuming craft. Economic necessity may give a boost to home cooking, but it will be a whole new world if we get reacquainted with the dinner table and regularly sit down to meals together, without iPhones, laptops, or Tvs.