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Aug 24, 2022

The Fat Boy’s Guide to Food

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

Dreamstime Images
Step inside the lard-laden arteries of a man who has spent his life devouring some of the world’s most questionable cuisine.

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“Can you give us something funny about food for the next issue?” my editor asked me. She asked me this because she knows that food is something I keep near and dear to my heart. As in literally; my arteries are absolutely packed with the stuff. And as you’ve probably gathered, I said yes. Because I need the money. To buy more food.

All the same, it was interesting timing that I was asked now, of any period in my life, to write about food. Across the entire span of 42 years defined by ceaseless gluttony, taking any entrée to the maw no matter how potentially lethal my doctor may have deemed it, I’m asked to write this piece now.

The timing of this whole thing is interesting, because right now I can barely think about food. At least not in any way that I’m used to.

You see, my relationship with food has always presented itself to the outside world (and to anyone within crumb-splattering distance) as one of pure bombastic enjoyment. I invented the quesadilla sandwich, not because I wanted to pair the earthy notes of authentic Oaxaca cheese with the delicate tang of Dijon mustard. I did it because I wanted to eat a quesadilla, but since I knew I’d still be hungry after, I also wanted to eat a sandwich. Combining them was a matter of efficiency. These things, it would appear to anyone watching me inhale this concoction with the gleeful abandon of a Labrador, make me happy.

It wasn’t until I actively started trying to lose weight that I realized something. I enjoy food, yes. I enjoy it much in the same way as an alcoholic enjoys whiskey—so much that they hide it in the toilet where no one else can drink it. It makes me happy in the same way that, I’m assuming, meth makes people happy (it has to, right? I don’t think anyone gets into it because they want to lose a few teeth). It does this by triggering some idiot response in my lizard brain that overrides the side of me that has any self-control (a side that, let’s be honest, is probably a pushover to begin with).

I started looking into it, and food addiction is a shockingly underexplored side of psychology. We have armies of scientists testing the various shades of red to see which one will make us want fried chicken more, but we can’t spare so much as an undergrad to look into why some of us will devour the whole bucket no matter what color it was.

Now I want to be clear, food is a wonderful thing and an underappreciated art form. When I go to a restaurant and I see the skill that went into a dish, the careful balancing of flavors and textures, the practiced care in which it was prepared, I appreciate it on the same level as any symphony or painting. But no one ever sat down and listened to a whole-family size serving of symphonies in one sitting. There are some of us who can appreciate the art but are powerless to stop ourselves from enjoying it too much.

So yeah, I’m addicted to food. And while the first step is admitting you’re powerless, the second step is figuring out how to live with it. For the time being, that means getting on a medication that effectively blocks any and all hunger signals. Imagine if you’ve been hearing the same song in the background your entire life, never really understanding why, and then someone pulls out the earbuds you didn’t realize you were wearing. It’s an eerie sort of silence, coupled with the realization that the song wasn’t in your head the whole time.

It’s not a long-term fix, but for the time being, it’s giving me a chance to get some perspective. And that perspective is finally letting me view food the way the rest of you do. Sure, I don’t view it as often (I made the mistake of eating an entire slice of pizza a few nights ago and let me tell you the nightmares were *French chef kissing his fingertips gesture*). But when I do sit down to enjoy a meal, I find myself actually savoring it.

I’m keenly aware of the flavors, the textures, the presentation, because I’m no longer looking at this edible artwork as more fodder for the jaw-mill. I’m looking at it as the end result of millions of years of practiced study and advancing art. The whole of human history, from the first time we flame-broiled a wooly mammoth to the launch of the Baconator has been about making food tastier.

And I’ve never really enjoyed it, not in the same way the rest of you do. But I’m learning. If you’re one of the lucky ones who can simply take a few bites of something, appreciate it for what it is, and move on, I envy you. I’m excited to find out how things taste when I actually take the time to enjoy them. 

And for those of you still struggling, hang in there. There are more of us out there than you think.

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