My Journey Toward a Romantic Staple.
When I was 18 McDonald’s came out with the McGriddle Sandwich, and I fell in love.
I would find every excuse to stop my silver Honda Accord by the golden arches before school and have a morning quickie with this scrumptious treat of a breakfast. The makeup of the McGriddle includes a ground sausage patty, egg and cheese sandwiched in between two griddle cakes laced with syrup-flavored goo. The syrup was inside the pancakes! The salty/sweet package was bangin’ and it really got me going in the morning—in more ways than one…
Admittedly, a McGriddle Sandwich was not a healthy way for me to start each day. The habit—had it continued—would have slowly packed the pounds on my belly and clogged all known pathways to my heart. Knowledge of my slow metabolism and peer-pressure to avoid the greasy golden arches has kept me away from McDonald’s as I’ve gotten older, and I have learned that the most satisfying way for me to start the day is with a moderate-sized bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal topped with nuts and maple syrup. This hot breakfast is the only other one I’ve found that gets me going as well as the McGriddle did, and it has taken me years to really appreciate.
I really struggled to love eating well.
It felt arduous and boring. From the moment I took out my pot to cook, I would dread the oatmeal-making process. I felt it was a waste of time to prepare the old-fashioned oats. The clean up was such a drag too. While on the go in the morning, I would leave the pot to soak and would be forced to deal with it after a long day at work.
Then there is the fact that oatmeal, as delicious as it can be, will never be as yummy as the McGriddle Sandwich. It is just plain science.
A McDonald’s breakfast tastes like hot passionate sex.
It’s not very exciting to start your day with oatmeal. To me, it was something old people ate to “stay regular.” I used to tease my dad unmercifully when he ordered oatmeal at a restaurant. “This is the time you are supposed to have something that is bad for you!”
And yet, I’ve come to realize that eating well works best for my body and soul. I feel healthier now than I did as a teenager and I love knowing exactly what fuels me. In fact, on the rare occasion that I indulge in a McGriddle these days, I get heartburn simply at the sight of the waxy yellow wrapper it comes in. Just minutes after I’ve devoured my breakfast of convenience, I swear I can feel the chemical grease making its way into my arteries.
I am not a fast food girl anymore.
I am a slow food girl now, through and through. And I’ve realized that eating well doesn’t have to be lame, boring or a chore. Wholesome meals can be deeply satisfying and nourishing on a level that McDonald’s only dreams of recreating.
It truly is miraculous that food grows out of the ground, assisted by rain and sun, and that this food nourishes our bodies as well as our loved ones. Each time I cook, as I engage in the alchemical process, turning many ingredients into one dish with a rich symphony of flavors, I feel a sense of gratitude for the food I am about to consume.
Eating a McGriddle Sandwich, I forget to have reverence for the process of eating. I get lost in the hot deliciousness of the moment and forget to be thankful for the hands that prepared my food or even those that toiled in a laboratory to mass-produce it. And even if I did remember to honor the creators of my McGriddle, to whom would I address my gratitude? I don’t know their names or their history. We aren’t in a relationship.
This is not, however, an article about fast food vs. slow food. There are enough of those out there already and—as a Southern girl who can still get down with some Church’s Chicken and Dairy Queen—I am not qualified to preach the slow food gospel. I am writing this because I realized recently that the progression from my high school affair with the McGriddle to my solid long-term relationship with oatmeal is being played out again.
I am slowly transitioning out of an unhealthy love affair of another (human) kind…
We’ll call this decadent dish the “Cuddle-and-Run.” The Cuddle-and-Run is a “takeout” relationship that allows me to avoid the hassle of preparation and still have something tasty that fills me up pretty quickly. There are many unidentifiable ingredients and chemicals involved in this fast-lovin’ meal, but the finished package resembles a deep and quickly formed emotional connection, layered with lots of physical touch and topped with a heavy sprinkling of affirmative phrases about beauty, physique and bedroom prowess. The Cuddle-and-Run has become an all too frequent part of my lovin’ diet.
At first, I couldn’t get enough of the Cuddle-and-Run type. As a woman who is fairly in touch with who she is and what she wants, connection comes as easily to me as intense flavor does to McDonald’s. I really know how to use my eyes, my words, my lips and my body to score that delicious interaction. Problem is, for the past few years I have been looking for a romantic staple and the Cuddle-and-Run man is not proving to be “where it’s at.”
I could have a Cuddle-and-Run every few months, no problem. Perhaps, in the wake of him not calling me, I would experience a quick bout of emotions, but I experienced very little weight gain and no artery blockage. I’d show up a few months later for the next one thinking, “This guy is it. We have such an amazing connection! I can have an intense hook-up with him and it will become something more.” Yet I have had one Cuddle-and-Run after another and I have rarely seen this scenario play out the way I dream it will.
Lately, I’ve become less resilient. In the wake of a deep yet fleeting connection, I feel my wide-open heart working overtime to recover. I don’t like the way I feel when the Cuddle-and-Run is my main meal.
Furthermore, these guys I was cuddling with—good guys, mind you—took our easy connection for granted. While I was hoping our quick physical connection would lay the foundation for them to become the staple of my relationship “diet,” they were after something juicy, delicious, convenient and cheap.
And they got what they were looking for.
They took the fast food for what it was worth, but, ultimately, they did not want to become the type of guy who hangs out at his local McDonald’s. Just as I had quickly wised up to the more deleterious effects of a daily McGriddle, these guys would lick their lips, jump back onto the treadmill and recommit themselves to finding a slow-cooked oatmeal relationship—somewhere else.
But I kept going back for the intense flavor and the empty calories. It was like I was eating one McGriddle after another in a misguided attempt to quell the heartburn, hoping this next one would give me the sustenance I was looking for.
It has been several weeks since my last Cuddle-and-Run. More than the rest, I saw this last one for what it was—a fling. Nevertheless, the recovery from what was supposed to be a “quickie” was anything but.
It had been a particularly tasty dish, piled high with salty kisses and sweet nothings.
I hadn’t had a fix in a while and he was hot—fresh off the griddle—just like I like them. The flavors of the evening lingered in my mouth for days afterward. Maybe, I imagined, our fling could last a little longer. Maybe it could even turn into something more. I sent a coy text, asking for another hit of that fast food delight.
“Headed out of town,” he replied, “I’ll give you a call when I get back, Missy!”
And then—like a punch to the gut—radio silence.
In the slow, painful, heavy-hearted withdrawal that followed, I woke up to how sick and malnourished my affair with fast lovin’ had made me.
I wanted to feel good about myself after some lovin’, but—when this meal wore off—I just felt bloated, unlovable and severely lacking the nutrients that create solid, healthy relationships.
A few weeks later, taking a pre-dinner walk around the neighborhood where I live—one I’ve often ridiculed for being as plain and slow as oatmeal—I noticed was how vibrant it was, pulsing with life. All around me there were cute old couples holding hands, newly planted gardens with tender young plants bursting out of the soil and sturdy homes carefully created to sustain families for years to come.
And I wanted some of that. My body was craving a sustainable, heart-healthy, and well-balanced kind of lovin’. Now I’m ready to start my days with the kind of nutrition that only a slow-cooked whole-grain relationship can provide.
I have been slowly realizing that a fast and easy relationship may not be the only way to go.
Entering my late 20s, and having gotten my “ya-yas” out, it’s clearer to me that if what I want is to be in a healthy and committed relationship, I’m not going to find it by indulging in the passion of an instant connection. Though I am glad I can quickly feel a heart-connection with lots of folks, what I cherish most are the relationships with friends, family and colleagues that have been built over time on a solid foundation of mutual respect, honest communication and love.
I want the kind of lovin’ that grows close to me, one where I feel connected to the source—even if means coming back to the same person, week after week.
I am ready to enter a relationship that I will have to patiently wait for as it simmers on the stove at low heat, breaking down old bonds to form new ones that produce rich flavors and interesting textures. My new staple might not be perfect the first time I make it. I may have to try the same recipe several times before I really get it right. But what an accomplishment that will be! And if I forget an ingredient, I’ll be skilled enough to improvise—or maybe I’ll just send my slow-lovin’ lover out for it.
And when I’ve found the right meal to get me going, I know it will be anything but bland. I am not a bland girl and I wouldn’t settle for a bland relationship—fast or slow. Our time together might be more routine, our meals a bit more mundane. But, I ask, what would you prefer for most meals: sitting at a table and sharing stories over a home-cooked meal or sitting in your car eating something made from dubious ingredients, holding onto a wad of wax paper?
At first, I worried that the slow lovin’ relationship would be boring. And now? I’m sure there will be days when I don’t want to put time and energy into my relationship, and I’ll long for something quick and easy. I hope that on those days I’ll take the time to be thankful for the healthy choices I’ve made. I hope I’ll have the wisdom to remember all that my partner and I have been through in order to find one another and all that we have been through to create the relationship we are in.
I hope I can be mindful of the fact that when I choose a “whole” relationship, I get to interact with the whole person—the flavor and the fiber.
I also hope I’ll remember that there is plenty of fun and variety in the slow lovin’ smorgasbord. On the weekends, we can spice up our routine with a homemade breakfast sandwich or a leisurely brunch out with friends. That’s right, we can even share our lovin’ with friends sometimes, if that’s what we both have a hankering for.
Slow lovin’ is anything but boring! More importantly, it keeps my heart healthy—running well and for the long haul.
Brennan Taylor is a practicing human, doula, yogini, singer, dancer, cook, daughter and friend. She grew up in Arkansas, attended a sweet little liberal arts college in Minnesota and has spent the past six years living, working and playing in Oakland, CA. She will soon travel east to Nashville where she’ll learn how to practice Nurse Midwifery.
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