In between finishing my first book and becoming desperate enough to watch an in-flight movie (alone, on a tiny screen, with frequent interruptions being my least favourite way to watch a film, I usually don’t bother), I frequently end up in an angsty, what-does-it-all-mean fugue state, awake but desperately tired and trying to avoid rubbing my greasy hairline. I’m not consciously afraid of flying, but something about hurtling through the air in a metal tube flown by machines inspires some serious reflecting, and considering how, if I continue to live, I might do a better job of it.
Thus, my coffee-stained purse journals are all filled with turbulence-rattled aspirational lists full of pithy items like be more present and stay calm and other things that I seem to forget as soon as we land. It’s not that I don’t try those things when I’m earth-bound, but they’re easier to remember in the forced reflection time at 36,000 feet.
So one of the things I wrote down on our 9.5 hour FRA-YYZ leg was to eat more mindfully. When I was growing up, my grandmother (who lived with us) didn’t particularly like cooking, and my mom didn’t have time. As a result, we ate a lot of pre-packaged, frozen meals. So did a lot of people – this was the 90s, before Michael Pollan and company, before food was a political statement or rallying cry or anything, really, other than fuel. Also, we are of Scottish descent, so we didn’t really eat anything exotic or flavourful or remotely foreign-looking or -sounding.
When I moved away to university and started cooking, and getting into food (and I’m struggling here with how to describe my relationship to food – is it a hobby? An interest? Am I a foodie?), I felt like a curtain had been pulled away and I discovered this whole world I hadn’t known existed. That strawberries in season are like little delicate orbs of jam. That real whipped cream is ethereal and velvety and wholesome. That cookies can be freshly baked and chewy and redolent with spices and butter. Basically, that food can be pleasurable without relying on huge amounts of salt à la most of the canned offerings of my youth.
Overall, this is a wonderful thing that happened to me, but sometimes I feel like I’m making up for lost time. I didn’t like tomatoes until I was 18 – I have 18 years of tomatoes to make up for! (Luckily their season is nearly year-round in Jordan so I’m catching up). And not to flatter myself, but I’m a pretty good cook, so there are often tasty things available in our house, which I end up eating when I’m not hungry, but just want something. I try not to have a crazy relationship with food or my body, but sometimes I’ll eat things (cookies, guys) and then feel all remorseful and conflicted and grumpy, and walk around sighing and saying, “ugh, I’m so fat,” so that I can make Eric say that I’m not.
Which eating mindfully would ostensibly get at – lift cookie to mouth, pause, realize I’m not hungry, put cookie down, serenely read a book and have healthy body image instead. Easy, right?
Anyways, jet lag: before we left, I read a few articles on resetting your body’s food clock while traveling to minimize jet lag and decided to try it. I gamely packed myself some hardboiled eggs and fruit, counted backwards, and figured out that I should go from midnight preceding our 0200h (Amman) flight to 0730h (Toronto), which would occur sometime on our FRA-YYZ leg, without eating, then break out my eggs and have “breakfast,” thus telling my body that it was morning in my destination. This would normally require a huge exertion of willpower on my part (see above: eating when bored), but since airplane food is disgusting, I figured it would be easier to refrain.
Well, I cheated a bit because my stomach was rumbling non-stop in the Frankfurt lounge, so I ate one of my eggs and had a hot chocolate (and stole a muffin for the flight). But I successfully rejected the plane food (which, pro tip: always request the Hindu meal!) and stuck to my schedule, and felt awake enough upon arrival to drive to Owen Sound without driving into a ditch. By any metric, I’d call that a success.