Eating has always been a significant part of my life. I grew up with Mum in the kitchen, claiming she couldn’t cook then effortlessly throwing out a spectacular spread. It’s how my family celebrate, we’re Jewish after all. We’ll find any excuse to eat.
Jewish New Year isn’t complete without honey cake. On the ‘Day of Atonement’ we fast and then gleefully shovel as much fried fish, herring and kichel, salads, dips, cheeses and dessert in our faces as possible. Friday’s we catch up over a big family dinner. It’s one of the things that brings us together, and keeps us close.
I took it for granted, all that eating. Until last June. It was a day like any other. I was at work getting stuff done, when suddenly, I felt a pain through my body so intense that I can’t even describe it.
The ambulance was called, and I was rushed to A&E. After a battery of tests, I was told by a somewhat incredulous doctor, that I had a perforation in my stomach. “How on earth did that happen?” I asked him, “No idea” he replied.
Thus began a week of being ‘nil by mouth’. No food, no water, nothing. It was hard. Not just the physical aspect of feeling completely lethargic but the emotional and mental challenges that came with it. I love eating, and being unable made me feel very low.
Food isn’t just about flavours, colours, textures. It’s also about what it represents. Milestones. Births, deaths, marriages. Declarations of love, sympathy and loss.
Eventually I was told I was allowed something small. I cautiously nibbled on a dry piece of bread with a smearing of jam, half a sliced banana, and a side of drugs. It wasn’t anything close to gourmet but I’ve never felt so thankful to have the privilege of a meal.
It was food! Beautiful food. I don’t think i’ll ever take it for granted again.