Yesterday afternoon, I realised I was craving red meat.
The only other time that's happened to me, was when I was pregnant (no, I'm not!). It was 1998, I'd been vegetarian for about 4 years, yet all I wanted was steak. With blood in the middle. Yesterday afternoon - same thing. I was on my way to pick up my youngest son from school. I knew my husband was cooking rainbow trout for dinner but reasoned that if I picked up a pack of steak from the Co-Op, I might be able to hang on till tomorrow and have it then. I'd cook it, fat free in a non-stick pan, only a minute on each side so that it'd be (as my ex-mother-in-law who is French used to say) "still cold in the middle." My mouth was watering at the thought.
The journey to pick up my son involves a double bus ride, both there and back. When I got off the first bus at York Station, I could only think about red meat. I tried to distract myself, and thought I'd take a few photos, but there was no memory card in my camera - damn! So I stood there, looking at the entrance to the station, knowing that there were 20 minutes to wait before my next bus arrived, and thinking about meat. There was nowhere I was going to be able to go and get a rare steak within the next 20 minutes anyway, so I might as well forget it. But then I thought of Burger King in the station. They do Angus Burgers, which are rather nicer than ordinary ones. Nice and meaty. Red meaty.
Imagine a ridiculously speeded up film, like the way the vampires move in Twilight. That was me flitting across the road, into the station, round the corner, and before you could even blink, standing in front of the Burger King Cashier.
"An Angus burger please."
"Do you want a drink with that?"
"Yes please. A diet Coke."
"If you want a drink with it, it's cheaper if you order the full meal with fries."
Excruciating five seconds while I consider.
"Could I pay for the full meal, but not have the fries?"
So there I am, a minute or two later, in York City Station, holding a fizzy drink and a Burger King carton. It's half past two. Not lunch time, not dinner time. This is my afternoon snack. Looking around the station, no-one else is eating, apart from three Japanese tourists, who I immediately excuse as clearly having a late lunch. I try to excuse myself. Yes, I know I've had lunch already but ... this isn't a junk food binge! My body obviously wants red meat. I'm listening to my body! I'm in tune with my body! Isn't that great? Well kind of yes and no. It would have been good to have waited till tea time, and not to have gone for burger.
I looked for a bench to sit down, and studiously avoided the space next to a slim, well dressed older lady, who looked happy, alert, and who wasn't eating. I eventually slunk into an empty bench near the stall of a flower seller who was busy watching the world cup on a portable telly.
I opened the Angus Burger. The item I pulled out was a masterpiece of comfort food design technology. The burger buns are like two huge soft sponges. If you could shrink yourself and lie down on top of it, it'd be like sleeping on a warm, fluffy cloud. The burger itself is very meaty, not fatty, and on top of it is tomato and lettuce, coated almost completely in lashings of thick, creamy mayonnaise. Summoning up most of my remaining will power, I pulled out most of the salad. I didnt have enough to just eat the meat and discard the bread bun.
Biting in to the Angus Burger, to my disappointment, did not quell the red meat craving. It wasn't quite right. Not quite what I wanted. It was however, stifling my worries with every mouthful. I tried to eat slowly like I've been doing over the past weeks, but it was hard. This sort of food lends itself somehow to being crammed in. My world was having the edge taken off it, and suddenly I was in bouncy mattress land, getting a real hit from starting to feel a bit too full, and from getting full fast.
Walking out of York Station, I felt good. I'd like to tell you I felt sick, or felt suddenly repulsed, but I didn't. I think my red meat craving was eventually satisfied by the burger, and for the rest of the day I ate normally as though that blip didn't actually happen.
Comfort food and comfort eating is a weird thing. I wonder if anyone totally understands it, and why we "go wrong" in that way? I certainly don't know the answer to those questions, but be assured, I am watching what I eat, in more ways than one. The more we understand why we do what we do, and are aware what's going on, the more we can fight it, I guess.