from “Building a Pantheon,” new chapter written for the Tenth Anniversary Edition
I’ve found it can be tough to save the world when you’re a twenty-year-old with a minimum wage job. Once while I was babysitting a sweet little girl, she asked me earnestly if I was a baby or a mommy? I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to answer. The truth is, I’m a little of both. I have my days, as most college students do, when I eat pizza in bed and tell myself tomato sauce is a vegetable. I also have days when I shop and cook thoughtfully and feel like a grown-up. The trick for me is finding a healthy balance between a mindless college-cafeteria diet and my own expression of the emotional maturity my family encouraged me to develop when we all pushed ourselves to eat in a way that made our bodies and hearts feel full. I’ve figured out that sharing tasks with a friend helps me find the motivation to cook, shop for groceries more carefully, and be more creative with meal planning. There’s also some bonding in the forced intimacy of cooking together in my apartment kitchen, which is roughly the size of a cereal box. Discussing and creating food with another person is a beautiful way of connecting, and one that I came to love in the kitchen where I grew up.
I’ve also learned to give myself the space to flounder a little, especially when my life is in such a dynamic period of growth. I’m living in a city on a college student’s budget. Sometimes my only realistic shot at a locally grown meal is the jar of Mom’s home-canned applesauce I brought back from my last visit home. Self-respect means accepting that even when I’m struggling to align my life with my values, I am truly doing okay.