Arianne Cohen, a Marie Claire writer joined Overeaters Anonymous because when she went out with people, she was distracted by the bread basket. She also started eating sprinkles as a snack with a tablespoon.
When she went there she heard stories of people bottoming out, like the one from a woman who went out to “a public dinner” and broke into the kitchen and just tossed all the desserts in her purse and ran, just ran, gobbling a glorious purse-load of tiramisu as she went, floating along on a cloud of sugar and the distant but frenzied cheers of her comrades. Oh, I’m sorry. I was confused. She went out to a public dinner and had “three glasses of wine and, oh yes, the entire bread basket.”
Now, I’m not sure whether this was the best bread basket in the world, but most restaurant bread baskets have around 4 pieces of bread in them. 5, maybe?
Look. Lady. That is not a binge. That is “a good night.”
A binge is when you eat five pints of ice cream in the dark while sobbing hysterically to videos of baby animals on Youtube (and it happens to the best of us). And then you puke. And then you do need to start seeing someone because it is indicative of other issues, and you need to talk to someone for your own sake, emotionally.
But in general, as a rare, “rock bottom” experience, eating the bread basket is not a sin. It should not make you so miserable that you did that one night.
Why? Because food is one of life’s pleasures.
I will say this a few more time because I think women tend to forget. So. Food is one of life’s pleasures. Food is one of life’s pleasures. Food is one of life’s pleasures. Food is one of life’s pleasures. Food is one of life’s pleasures.
I think that we’re getting into a problem when we start to always regard food – even low calorie food – as the enemy. Nicole Richie gave a quote to the Daily Magazine during fashion week that she didn’t eat soup, she preferred something healthier. In case you forget because you consume only super healthy oxygen, soup is broth and vegetables.
If Arianne Cohen is distracted by the bread basket, it might be because bread is delicious. It is soft and warm and comforting and great. Bread with a little butter? Maybe some sea salt? I hope the girl in Overeaters Anonymous sprinkled just a pinch of sea salt on the bread in that ill-fated bread basket. I know not every restaurant offers that – it’s sort of rare, really, too rare! Sea salt makes everything better, especially chocolate, which is something many retailers seem to be only just discovering – but oh, when they do, it’s just lovely. Or those butters with seasoning in them? Isn’t seasoned butter just God’s gift to us?
Balthazar has a bread basket that is just… oh, that bread basket could keep you alive if everything else in your life fell apart. It really could. Especially if you’re getting French Onion soup, and why would you order anything else at Balthazar? Peasant gives you the bread basket and there’s this fresh crusty bouncy peasant bread and then whipped ricotta on the side. And then they give you this whole bottle of olive oil. Which isn’t my thing, really. I find olive oil a little greasy, I don’t like the aftertaste. But I like that they do it all the same. And I go to Bryant Park Grill sometimes not because I like anything else there, particularly – oh, fine they do a great Cobb salad, fair point – but because they make these freakishly perfect olive rolls. Heaven.
I’ll admit that my love of food is pretty consistently at war with my love of remaining thin enough to squeeze into sample sizes. I work to balance it. I do pilates or run 5 miles pretty much daily. I like to exercise.
Arianne Cohen, on the other hand, has tried to be abstinent from, well, it’s never precisely named what kind of foods beyond frosting and candy and bread, but bad foods. She did succumb to a glazed donut on December 27, 2010. She wants you to know that. She also claims that she finally resolved a lot of her problems by learning the phrase “no bread, please.”
I really, really think a better phrase to learn would be “sorry, waiter? Can I just grab one piece of bread and then you can take the basket? Please leave the butter. And the sea salt. Do not take those. They are the best. I am sorry for the inconvenience.” Then eat that piece of bread, and make sure you season it perfectly, and savor the hell out of it. If you are generally irrationally sorry for being awkward, throw in an extra dollar on the tip, but for goodness sake, don’t decide that eating food is a black and white issue where you can either be “good” or “bad.” Because looking at it that way means that when you are bad, you are going to end up eating five pints of ice cream and vomiting them up.
Arianne Cohen suggests that many people will relate to her problem because many of us are addicted to something, too. For instance, she says, “maybe you drown your problems in a snow pile of coke.” Well, Arianne Cohen, I don’t know if you know anyone who has dealt with drowning their problems in a snow pile of coke, but often it results in problems other than… what were your problems? You say you never gained much weight so, feeling distracted?… okay, well, anyhow, people who do a lot of coke tend to get paranoid and off-kilter and generally don’t win employee of the month awards. It’s all very much less of a winter wonderland than you’d expect. I’m not saying I have ever met anyone who has done a ton of coke, I’m just drawing from American Psycho, here. But if I did know anyone who had, I would suggest that they fuck up other people’s lives pretty considerably. That is why coke is bad. The fucking up other people’s lives part is what makes it bad. That is why people go to rehab.
In her article, Arianne Cohen has a quote from a Standford psychiatrist saying “I can’t imagine that people who eat do too much damage to others. It’s not like someone who is addicted to heroin.” I think that Standford psychiatrist just buries his problems in a great snow pile of logic.
Do you know why it’s not like being addicted to heroin? It’s because food isn’t inherently “bad” or something we need to abstain from altogether. Yes, some food is fattening. Sure. If you are concerned about that – and given society’s standards, it would be hard not to be – by all means, exercise more and eat them in moderation. But on the whole, food is good. Food gives us the energy we need to go out into the world and work and thrive and be happy. And food gives us pleasure, too, without ultimately detrimentally affecting those around us. Unless we steal it off their plates, I guess. But they forgive that. On the whole, food is amazing.
And I think even Arianne gets that, as she’s ultimately decided that “a dish of ice cream at a restaurant is fine.” She’s “still kind of a mess with Mexican tortilla baskets” though. Arianne? You are allowed to eat tortilla chips. You are allowed to eat them all if you really want to. If you do not really want to – if you are concerned, for health reasons, or vanity reasons – take a (large, because you love them) handful of tortilla chips. Put them on your plate. Send the rest of the basket away unless anyone else at the table who really wants it. Then enjoy them. They’re delicious.