You Must Be Hungry

A food critic grapples with her daughter's eating disorders.

On the Road Again

How do you measure progress against eating disorders? Sometimes, it's in miles.

The restaurant critic and the recovering anorexic went on a road trip last week. We were both very nervous about it, and leading up to this trip there were lots of arguments, even to the point of saying, “That’s it. I am not spending two days alone with you!” Yet we did, and not only lived to tell the tale, we had a great time and look forward to doing it again.

In the worst of the ten years since Lisa started down the full spiral of eating disordersanorexia, bulimia, binge eating – the enjoyment of life pretty much fizzled away. Eating together, especially. We had screaming fights in restaurants and rarely sat down at the table together at home. The nadir was in a stylish Singaporean restaurant I was reviewing, where Lisa took long trips to the bathroom. I went in and lifted the toilet seat, and yes, someone had vomited. I scanned the dining room desperately for other possible suspects.

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Two years ago, we wrote about a remarkable step forward, celebrating birthdays at a fancy French restaurant and having a good time.

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But that was with other people present -- people not dangling on the mother-daughter tripwire of emotion.

Here’s what we ate the first night:

Cornmeal crab fritters with avocado pesto and apple-pear slaw

Spice-roasted beets with herbed goat cheese, pickled onions and citrus salt potato chips

Trinidadian seafood stew with piquant coconut broth

The next day, we had lunch by a babbling brook, tasted wines at a big winery with panoramic views and a little one where we sat in the sun with the owner’s friendly pug, sipped cappuccino (me) and chai tea (Lisa) in a wonderful coffee house furnished by hodgepodge, and dined on appetizers and matching wines in a beautiful white-tablecloth restaurant. Apparently, the couple next to us had been watching. (Funny, I always watch people in restaurants and never think they’re watching me. It’s like being at the gym.) 

The wife leaned over and said:

“You are mother and daughter? You get along so well!”

Lisa pointed to our wineglasses as one explanation. 

Of course our neighbor hadn’t seen us earlier that day at the nature preserve, where Lisa trudged off with her smart phone while I listened raptly to a talk about butterflies. And she wouldn’t see us on the freeway, arguing about how close was safe to follow the car in front of you.

And she won’t see Lisa wrestling with how much cheese to eat, how many reps at the gym, and the rest of her likely lifelong struggle to recover from eating disorders. But for now, what joy! 

That’s my version. In our next post, Lisa will give you hers. 

Sheila Himmel is an award-winning food journalist. She and her daughter, Lisa, wrote Hungry: A Mother and Daughter Battle Anorexia.

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