On Julie, Julia and Hunger

Life itself is the proper binge.
~ Julia Child

Tonight, I watched “Julie and Julia” for the second time. I can still feel a laugh simmering in my belly, and my face is still wet with tears.

I feel like I have finally enjoyed their stories on an empty stomach.

You see, in my two previous encounters with “Julie and Julia”, I was distracted. The exact dates on which I chanced upon Julie Powell’s book “Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously” (some time before the movie was released) and on which I attended a late night screening of “Julie and Julia” at a cinema in Singapore are lost amongst the loose leaves of my memory now, but I have not forgotten the state I was in when this story made its way to me. Both times, my heart was a dark shade of grey. Both times, “Julie and Julia” was a nice meal, but it was like trying to eat at a loved one’s funeral – I couldn’t really dig in.

This time though, the film shone/showered on my crimson heart, and I loved every ray/drop of it.

By the way, did you know that “Julie and Julia” (the book) is also one of the things that inspired the birth of this blog (well, that and a night of insomnia)? And while I have no Paul Child or saintly Eric now, I had – and have – a wonderful troop of family and friends who help keep it going.

Happy I am.

And while I’m on the subject of happiness, I’m happy to be on holiday leave, too. You get more time to think and make breakfast and go for long sea-smelling walks when you’re on holiday.

One of the holiday thoughts that surfaced in my mind the other day while at the beach was this: that to be hungry… really hungry… can be a marvellous thing.

In suffering hunger, senses are sharp, everything is real. Alive. To sounds, smells, sights, tastes. Facial expressions. Thoughts. Feelings. These are some of the things that I like about hunger in food, and in life – that keenness, clarity and drive to go after something that will fill and satisfy. The spontaneity to try something new. The vulnerability. The awareness that we need other people. The desperation. The jolting reminder that “I am a human being”.

That day, I found myself hungry in a curious way. Hungry enough to defer eating because no food immediately appealed, I found myself wanting to wait till I knew exactly what I wanted to eat (thus I ate breakfast at 12, no lunch, and dinner past 8pm). I found myself thinking new things about hunger and the function of eating. I was hungry for the smell of the sea, hungry for a sunset, hungry to dream. And I was content to be hungry, and gleeful when I finally ate and felt like I was really eating… satisfying the essence of my hunger, rather than eating just ‘cos it was time to eat (or time to blog). ;-)

I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but I think my thoughts have been coming together slowly… the truth is: I’ve gotten used to the feeling of fullness, of reaching out regularly to grab a cookie even when I’m not hungry (a phenomenon frequently observed in the lives of people with desk jobs), of eating more than my body requires at birthdays/other occasions, of eating when bored or moping, of eating when I’m not hungry just so I can experience a food more fully (and write about it). And when I’m not eating, I’m nibbling on food-related prose/events/stuff the way a kid feasts on candy – very greedily.

Food fascinates me. Probably always will.

But I begin to see that too often, I miss one real and obvious aspect of food/eating – hunger. Perhaps knowing hunger is crucial to knowing food. And perhaps… loving hunger (within reason) is crucial to truly loving food.

I don’t really know hunger well at all, and while I know I’m so fortunate to even be able to say that, I think that I want to fall deeper in love with food by coming to love hunger too.

Now, before you start worrying about me developing anorexia, it’s not gonna happen. The way I plan to go about this whole “knowing hunger” thing is simple. No diets. No starvation.

Just a few simple mental guidelines addressed to myself – 1. Eat when truly hungry. 2. Pay attention to food. 3. Be not afraid of hunger. 4. Laugh and love and cook like Julia Child. 5. Fall deeper in love with life, God and people.

And that, you may be relieved to read, concludes my Sunday ramble. :-) Thanks for listening (in particular – a huge thank you to you darling readers including Celi, Greg and Kristy for always making me smile with your comments)! Adiós for now!

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18 responses to “On Julie, Julia and Hunger

  1. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced sharp thoughts or senses when I’m hungry. Usually I just get cranky. ;) I did do an “experiement” of sorts in college where I stayed up for several days in a row as I thought my senses and mind were sharper and was curious about all the different moods I was experiencing (and yes, this was stimulant free ;) ). I remember I went into a professors office with all of these ideas I had for my paper. He looked at me and said, “I think you need to get some sleep.” Guess my ideas weren’t that sharp after all. Thanks for the shout-out Mel. Love your ramblings.

  2. Lucky you are. And thank you for the thank you, darling girl. And i have probably said this to you before but I think happy people are the people who can recognise and embrace happy when it comes. And you are one of these people.. celi

  3. Katherine’s reading the book now. I still have cravings for the chicken in port cream sauce, need to make that.

  4. Bunny Eats Design

    When I’m at work, I don’t eat lunch until I’m properly hungry. If I don’t have an appetite, I actually enjoy thinking up things to get me hungry. How can you properly appreciate food without hunger? I don’t snack if I’m not hungry, because I save it up for big meals. I consume heaps of food writings, food porn and food related non-edibles. My appetite is insatiable!

    The last few days of the holidays I’ve found that rather than stick to any kind of routine, we eat when we are hungry. This usually means a late brunch, a snack a late lunch and then no dinner. To be fair, I feel better for it. While I enjoy eating a large dinner, I’m rendered completely useless afterwards. It’s unnecessary and I don’t feel like it’s particularly good for me.

    I find eating alone also helps me focus on the food. Focusing on food makes you a better foodie, cook etc.

    • Genie I so wish I had your discipline! I don’t always wait till I’m hungry, but I want to try to do that more often now.

      Yes I know what you mean re holiday eating – I think it’s easier on the body than the normal work schedule! Agree re eating alone, too.

  5. I really believe this is the only way to eat. It also stops guilt when i have something rich and ‘bad’. Sometimes if i want a cupcake for dinner i have one, instead of forcing myself to eat things i don’t want and pining for a cupcake. Thankfully that does not happen often :) But you do appreciate your food more. Lovely post

  6. I haven’t seen that movie yet, believe it or not! Well, maybe one day it will be on a plane or tv…

    • Yes, it was on TV One the other night – I was quite glad my mom sent me a text message about it, or I would have missed it! I am sure they will show it again.

  7. A great way to approach eating I think, and one we can all strive for ^_^ Mindfulness is something I aim for this year too.

  8. Me too! Me too! Me too! Yes I watched Julie and Julia and fell in love with it again – especially cause my husband and I watched it in bed, giggling at how similar we are to Julie and her sweetheart. Yes it was also what inspired me to start MY blog! And yes I too find myself really valuing hunger. I rarely get it because my food routine is wayy too structured. But when I do I actually take the time to appreciate being super excited about eating. You and I have a lot in common. Your number 5 is also one of my top priorities :)

  9. Wow, so I just saw that movie last week and wondered “hey, I wonder if Mel has seen this…”

    Also, this is me resisting the temptation to write a huge novel in this comment box on hunger, the way human beings were meant to live, and how to maximize the enjoyment of life. Just sayin…

    • What did you think of the movie? I think Ms. Streep had a lot to do with me liking it as much as I did.

      You should totally write a huge novel in my comment box next time. I’ll even read it.

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