When author Hannah Howard takes a school journey to Portugal with outdated pals, they see what she can not—that her current weight reduction is a symptom of a a lot greater drawback. Excerpted from Howard’s new memoir FEAST: True Love In and Out of the Kitchen.
After freshman 12 months—which feels extra like a decade than like 9 months of strolling ballet dancers and hedge fund large pictures to their tables time and again; studying The Peloponnesian Wars, studying To the Lighthouse; getting misplaced in Mattress-Stuy at evening after somebody’s get together, which seems to be a recruitment for some form of new-age non secular cult; shopping for pretend designer denims from the runner, Jose, within the alley by the dumpsters for twenty ; tasting summer time Comté with Max, consuming as little as I can handle—I resolve to take a break from my shifts at The Piche, the flamboyant restaurant the place I’m a hostess, to go on a two-week journey to Portugal with two of my Baltimore pals, Steph and Amanda. We discover low-cost flights. Will probably be an journey.
As quickly as I get off the airplane in Lisbon, one thing feels off. Our hugs are perfunctory. Between the three of us, it’s nothing prefer it was only a 12 months in the past, in Baltimore, the best way simply seeing their faces was house, the best way their laughter turned on a change of my very own guffawing that couldn’t be stopped for hours, even when I attempted to think about terribly severe issues. These have been the non-ribbon-wearing women, the sensible women, the fascinating women. These have been the women who understood me. I’m secretly excited for them to see my new physique, my new life.
We would not have a enjoyable time. We battle about instructions to the hostel. We battle about whether or not to see an outdated fort or a sculpture museum or each or neither. We battle about the place to go for dinner.
“You look really skinny,” Steph says, solely as soon as. We’re unpacking our toiletries within the hostel in Lisbon and her brow scrunches in disapproval. “Like a different person.”
“I’m still me,” I inform her in protection. “I’ve been doing Pilates.”
I’m wondering if she’s jealous, however she appears solely repelled, as if I’ve change into hideous. I understand I need her approval, her eyes on me within the first bikini I’ve ever worn. It’s as blue because the ocean previous the cliffs of the Praia do Castelo. From the aspect, you may see the snake of my breast discount scar peeking out from its slick cloth. I need her to see me. I need her love.
I wish to inform her and Amanda concerning the unusual worlds I’ve found, about Corey and the cheese cart and even about To the Lighthouse, however they appear uninterested or worse. They wish to discuss silk scarves and messy roommates. These are the women who stayed up all evening with me after mixers to gossip concerning the cool women, to map out the terrain of the remainder of our lives. My weight appears the least of what has modified between us.
I eat, however I do know I’m not consuming like a traditional individual. I handle breakfast, lunch, and dinner, principally, kind of, however when Steph and Amanda cease for afternoon ice cream, I shake my head no. We get three spoons with our raisin-and-cinnamon-covered rice pudding on the fancy meals courtroom at El Corte Inglés, however I solely maintain mine as much as my mouth, metallic at my lip, as if I’m nearly to dig in. I’m petrified of unleashing the monster for whom all of the lacquered candies and fluffy pastries at El Corte Inglés are nowhere close to sufficient. I’m afraid of placing on that bikini tomorrow, which appeared like a good suggestion for a second—the lady within the dressing room subsequent to me instructed me it was stunning, even with my scars exhibiting. However now it seems like a merciless joke I performed on myself. Within the hostel mirror, my thighs pucker and ooze.
I’m obsessive about saving the miniscule energy I allot myself for the easiest meals Portugal has to supply—no mediocre road ice cream or chips from luggage, solely grilled sardines that style of charred sea, juicy rooster fiery with piri piri, fatty, bitter sheep’s milk cheeses, the grapefruit effervescence of vinho verde. However Steph and Amanda don’t wish to go to the eating places I’ve meticulously researched, and I’m uninterested in combating with them. Someday on the seaside, the sky starting to blush with nightfall, I learn a e-book alone whereas they splash within the waves. I take a stroll, toes sinking into the moist clean of the sand, as they head again to the hostel to bathe, their melodious voices receding over the sand dunes. The Atlantic rushes as much as my ankles, the seaside smells of wind and sardines. My loneliness feels as broad as its limitless expanse.
Lastly, all of us agree that we wish to strive pastéis de nata, the little Portuguese egg custard tarts in crackly, buttery pastry. We trek to the place we hear is finest, an extended stroll within the noon solar to a charm-filled café with cerulean tiles on the ceiling, no-joke espresso, guitar on the radio. We order a half dozen for us to share. I wish to strive them, however I can’t. I simply can’t. The espresso is bitter and black. Steph and Amanda’s dialog might as nicely be in Portuguese.
I study the custard, yellow as sunflowers, the gilded glow of the pastry that surrounds it. I watch them eat.
“You’re not going to have any, are you?” Amanda accuses, and I take a small chew to show her incorrect. Butter, egg, and sugar. It’s explosive in its wonderfulness, it’s an excessive amount of, too beneficiant, nonetheless heat, richer than my disappointment, nearly.
“They’re delicious,” I inform Amanda and Steph, however they’re solely one another.
I wish to eat the pastéis de nata and I don’t wish to eat the pastéis de nata. I’m trapped. Both method, I’ll let myself down. How is a small plate of pastries a lot greater than me?
From FEAST: True Love In and Out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard. Reprinted with permission.