I’ve been a vegetarian for two years now, and I love it.
But sometimes I still have dreams about meat. The locations and food change but the story remains the same–there’s a ton of people, a lot of food, and no food I can have. I either break my vegetarianism or go hungry for hours in a social situation where people would question my fasting.
Usually I wake up right around the time that I break down and put the chicken on my plate. Then I feel horrible all morning, even though I didn’t do it.
I used to think these dreams signified some sort of dietary deficiency, but it’s not about the meat. It’s about eating in front of other people. It should be no surprise that I still have anxiety over social eating, because the restaurants I feel comfortable at are few and far between, and let’s not talk about holidays with my meat-and-potatoes family.
Now that I’ve discovered my gluten intolerance and I avoid wheat and wheat by-products, that dream of choosing between isolation and drumsticks becomes staring dully at someone else’s muffin, wondering if I was making up this whole gluten intolerant thing and will the host be offended I’m not eating? Would it really hurt if I just had one?
The answer is, of course it would. Whenever I slip up, I pay for it. But inside my dream logic, I question my experiences–maybe I was just making it all up. Maybe switching to all gluten-free flours, buying a grain mill, spending all this time and money and energy on restocking my kitchen, reading recipes, and trying techniques, is all just a big waste. I made it up.
Our brains are funny places. Dreams help us work through so many things–anxieties, fears, and stresses. There’s good news, too. I’ve made efforts to be more prepared for social eating situations. I have stopped apologizing that I can’t eat that. I bring gluten-free foods with me, enough for everyone, and I bake some damned delicious cookies that no one believes are actually gluten free. I haven’t had the dream of wheat in a while. *crosses fingers*
Food connects us. Sharing a meal is sacred–in fiction, it’s symbolic. Dietary restrictions threaten to put us on opposite ends of the table, but they don’t have to. There’s plenty of meals and recipes that everyone can share. We can make it and break bread together.