Saturday, August 14, 2010

So, an anorexic and a bulimic walk into a bar...

Let me share with you a few jokes I heard on 2 South that solidified further my belief in healing through humor, a concept which my spiritual friends essentially base our communication on.

Theszie told me and Birdie this one evening after dinner, when we were all was stuffed, anxious, and depressed:

So, a doctor came up with a cure for eating disorders, and manufactured it in a pill form. The problem is: The anorexics won't take it, the bulimics throw it up, and the compulsive eaters overdose on it.

FormerGymnast told me this one out in the courtyard:

What do you call a quarter-pounder with cheese?

-An anorexic with a yeast infection

Later that evening, I retold it to Birdie, who is not only anorexic, but an Orthodox Jew with a very sheltered upbringing. Irish urged me not to, but Birdie insisted, and she laughed so hard that I was afraid she would have a massive coronary.

One night, during 8PM snack, UU and I were complaining; she was still stuffed from 5:30 dinner, and I was still hungry after my piddling ration of Cheerios. I said to her:

"I feel like they bring us here to stuff the anorexics and starve the bulimics!"

She laughed hysterically.

I even came up with my own line that I used to greet the newcomers. It was always very well-received:

"We don't bite...That's the problem"

Seriously, if we anorexics and bulimics can laugh at these jokes, then maybe there's hope for us after all...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cathartic on Cathartics

Well, I am home at last! I was only in there for two weeks, but it felt more like a month. Medicaid won't be happy about the nearly $40,000 bill, but better them than me. I'm really hoping my body doesn't go into Colace and Metamucil withdrawal; I had enough irregularity even with a daily dose, thank you. If you get the humor and irony of the subject title, then I applaud you.

I don't feel the least bit cured, because I gained little insight into my condition, but it helped so much to be around others who are struggling with some of the same problems. Talking to the other patients was more helpful than any therapy session, group or otherwise. It devastates me that I'll never see most of them again, no matter how sincere our "keep in touch" promises were. That's life, I suppose.

There is so much more work for me to do, and so much more I want to tell everyone (or no one), but unfortunately I'm exhausted from the trip from White Plains, and I've been dying for a HOT bath! Until tomorrow, my friends...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Hospital Food Conundrum

Later today, I will be going to the Emergency Room for some blood work. I am about ninety percent sure they will admit me, and fit me onto another heart monitor, because (surprise) I am having chest pains yet again. This may sound ridiculous to those who wonder why I don't just stop shoving my fingers down my throat, but it's really not as easy as it sounds. My weight hasn't plummeted the way it did a while back, but my limbs are tingling again, which is a pretty bad sign.

I need an EKG, a CBC, and a chemistry in order to be admitted into the Outlook at Westchester in White Plains, a branch of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. It is a treatment center for eating disorders, specializing in anorexia and those with low-weight bulimia (which would be yours truly). In order to join the program, I must be medically stable, because they aren't equipped to administer IV nutrition, which I will most likely need. I will probably spend about 2-3 weeks there, getting just the kind of help I need to kick this. The thought of being monitored so closely, especially in regards to food and my weight, and actually speaking about this (as opposed to typing a blog), terrifies me beyond belief. This time, I have a pretty good feeling that I won't change my mind.

The last time I checked myself into St. Luke's Hospital on the Upper West Side because I heard there was a very good eating disorder program there. While this was not untrue, they specialized in treating obesity. I had to laugh at the irony before using the misunderstanding to check myself out against medical advice.

Before I go into the emergency room, I shall treat myself to a "last meal." Never am I more aware of just how famished I really am than when I am lying in a hospital bed with nothing to distract myself from the hunger pains. My training in the classical French culinary arts doesn't help much. Feeding hospital food to a cook is like giving legos to an architect: very insulting. It also makes it more difficult to appear sincere about my recovery. It's hard enough to feel enthusiastic about eating even the tastiest food. All that aside, I don't want to die, so I guess I will just have to suck it up with a few good books...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Paul's Burger Joint Birthday Incident

It's official: I'm 21 years old! It was a great going into a bar knowing I'm legally allowed to be there. I met Dad at a wonderfully trashy bar in the East Village called Cheap Shots. We had a few drinks, and a great time.

I stupidly insisted on going to Paul's Burger Joint on Second Avenue, where a half-pound cheeseburger costs only five dollars. After we sat down, Dad told me he ate before he met me, and wasn't hungry. I was angrier than I should have been, but eating in front of people has become very difficult and embarrassing for me. Knowing I would be the only one consuming food significantly increased this anxiety.

To add insult to injury, the joint was packed, and our server rushed the ordering. I know I am very indecisive (especially about ordering food and renting movies), but still I got even angrier. The minute the food arrived, I went outside to be away from the smell of sumptuous beef fat smothered in gooey cheese in favor of the even more enticing tobacco smoke wafting from the lungs of pseudo-intellectuals.

I returned to my seat and shamefully large burger, and thought of how yummy it looked. Then I remembered why I was angry, and directed it all onto the greasy amalgamation of fat and calories that sat before me. There was a private bathroom, which is a huge plus for any bulimic unleashed upon the public, but there was a huge problem: It was far too close to our table, and directly in Dad's line of vision.

Before I knew what I had done, the burger, fries, accoutrement, my Diet Coke, and plate were a scattered mess on the floor. People turned to ascertain the origin of the loud crash they had heard. The look on Dad's face suggested this was probably the first time I had ever truly surprised him, despite the fact that this was the second time I'd slammed a cheeseburger onto the floor. At least this time I didn't pick it up and wolf it down in secret. I actually may have, had we been alone at his place.

"You're in trouble buddy," said Dad, in an uncharacteristically melancholy tone. I picked up my bag and stormed off into the night. Honestly, I have no idea why he puts up with me and my bullshit. I owe him an apology, and an over-sized food item. I can be a real asshole sometimes...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Big Cake Mistake

I just returned to my big empty house on Staten Island. It's nice to be back in my own space, even if I do resent not living in Manhattan. For the past three days, I was staying with my Father in his decent, but claustrophobic Harlem apartment, mainly so that I could cook for him. He asked me to bake him a cake, which I reluctantly did without my mixer or any of my piping bags or tips.

Instead, I just mixed the batter with a whisk. It was a very promising Lime-Scented Strawberry Cake, and I made a simple strawberry buttercream. I macerated some lovely strawberries in a bit of sugar to extract a gorgeous red syrup from the fruit. Then I folded the strawberries in with the buttercream, which unfortunately became runny because of the unbearably humid weather. No worries; I just decided to call it a glaze instead. After trimming the dome off the cake, I basted the it with the strawberry syrup using a pastry brush to create a crumb coat before drizzling it with the now-called Strawberry-glaze, and adorning it with the prettiest strawberries from the basket.

To my horror, the cake was undermixed, and the cake had ribboned and clumped in the center. It tasted fine, and was fully cooked, but the texture was pretty unpleasant to bite into. Surprisingly, I didn't beat myself up too much for it, because there was a perfectly valid excuse in that I didn't have my mixer with me. Dad didn't want to touch it, and neither did his roommate S.

Hours later, after Dad went to sleep and S had left to go peddle his music, I snuck back into the kitchen to devour the rejected cake. I poured a tall glass of milk, and cut a small piece for myself. As I chewed, I began to get angrier and more critical of my earlier mistake of undermixing the batter. I cut another small piece, then another, and another, and another. Before I realized it, the cake was reduced to a few scattered pink crumbs on the plate, and my stomach was a distended eyesore.

I thought about all of the pimples that would pop up all over my face and back, and shuddered at the thought of all the sugar, fat, and calories I had just consumed. After chugging nearly a quart of ice water, I washed the plate and wiped off the table as my anxiety level skyrocketed. When I had completely covered my tracks, I ran to the bathroom to get rid of the cake.

The next morning, Dad asked me what happened to the cake. I told him that I threw it out, and emptied the trash into the downstairs bin. He knew I was lying; We've been through this many times before. Brushing off a wave of anger and regret, I asked him what he wanted for dinner...

Hello To Everyone and No One...

Hello everyone. I am L, and I am a bulimic male, with a possible touch of anorexia. I live in the greatest city in the world (New York) with a constant case of the munchies. I am obsessed with food and cooking, and I spend about seventy percent of my day thinking about it. The other thirty percent is spent on how terrible, ugly, and worthless I am.

Last year, I graduated from The Institute of Culinary Education, and completed my externship at one of Manhattan's hottest restaurants. After the completion of the externship with an A-, I was thrilled to have been hired to work on the line. Of course, having an eating disorder really takes its toll on one's energy level and attention span, so I was understandably fired after making too many mistakes. It didn't help things much when I told them I didn't really want to be a chef; I just wasn't ready.

Although I was exercising unhealthy eating habits during my education and brief employment, my condition severely worsened after I stopped working. At one point I was binging and purging as many as seven times a day, and went for weeks without a single bowel movement. I lost more than forty pounds (and my sex drive), and was hospitalized three times with severe hypokalemia (critically low potassium) and magnesium and sodium deficiency. Each time I was placed on a heart monitor.

Now that I am living alone, I am finally ready to go on with my life and career in the food industry. As my favorite Chef Instructor from ICE once told me, cooking keeps me sane. All I need now is for someone somewhere to take a chance on me, and trust that I will perform the occasionally grueling duties and stomach all the hardships that a career in the restaurant industry is guaranteed to afford me.

Why continue to pursue a career that I clearly have some animosity towards, you ask? Well my friends, please don't misunderstand me. I love cooking, and despite everything, I believe choosing this path was the best thing I have ever done. Consider this: Throughout history, restaurant careers have been a successful outlet for the lonely, the misunderstood, the alienated, the antisocial. It is also not uncommon for restaurant work to be a last resort for stigmatized citizens who have served time in prison. Throughout history, many other downtrodden, demoralized groups of people have taken solace in their cooking. The overtaxed peasants of Pre-Revolutionary France, the working class of feudal China, and the African slaves of the Confederacy all learned to draw culinary inspiration and create fabulous dishes from the unappetizing slop they were allotted. So why shouldn't I be drawn to a trade that is not only dynamic and exciting, but also quick to forgive, and slow to judge people for their humanity?

I am writing this primarily as a constructive outlet for myself. However, should one find any dark humor, bittersweet irony, fun facts, or great recipes, I won't be too quick to judge. Furthermore, if I can help even one other person in a similar situation by talking about what I've long seen as the unspeakable, then I will have surpassed my goal by far. That may sound cheesy, but come on: do you know anyone who doesn't like cheese?