Written By: Anonymous
As I reflect on my eight years of recovery from an eating disorder, I hull the 25-pound bag of rice to the countertop, unroll the top-right edge of the bag open, just enough to fit the cracked plastic measuring cup inside. I fill one cup of rice and pour it inside the metal cooking bowl and think, “That should be enough.” Another voice detests and scoffs at my near-decision. I timidly follow the latter voice and fill up another cup of rice. “This should be enough now.” It’s not, not if I were cooking the way I was taught, for a family of four. In goes the cracked plastic cup to fill up with another two-thirds of rice. There. That’s plenty.
I turn on the faucet and let the water flow seamlessly into my metallic bowl of rice. I give it a swirl and turn off the faucet. I plunge my right hand into the bowl to grab and scrub each grain of rice by rubbing them against each other. I watch how water quickly turns from translucent to a white opaque denseness. It is the sign that a second rinsing is in order. I carefully tilt the bowl so that only water flows out of the bowl. However, to my disappointment, I always let a couple of rice grains escape. Disappointment overcomes me that I let those 8 or 12 grains go to waste. I repeat the process of adding fresh water, swirl, and rub. It’s a familiar feeling‒ the wet rice grains in my palm, between my fingers; the smell of something uncooked and dense; and the anticipation of what it’ll become. While grabbing, cleaning, and rubbing the rice is comforting, it comes with a tinge of fear‒ that it will soon be edible. So deliciously edible that I will eat it and may not stop. It will be caloric. I push past these thoughts and focus back on that comforting feeling of the uncooked grains in between my fingers.
I repeat the cleaning process three times until the water is no longer opaque. I refill the bowl with just enough fresh water that it comes up roughly to the mark of the first bone joint when I submerge my right index finger to touch the rice. I smile because my mom passed that tip to me. She probably learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother. The use of the index finger measuring system is a symbol connecting mothers to daughters and so on, hopefully repeating the cycle. Until maybe for someone down the road, rice becomes too scary to make. Until someone becomes inundated with the thought of its calories. Calories. 1 cup of cooked rice = 200 kcal. Damn it, those thoughts are back. Oh right, back to making rice. I measure a cup and a half of water to put on the outside of my metallic bowl and into the rice cooker. I gently slide the bowl inside the cooker machine, close the lid, and press the ‘on’ button and flip the switch up to initiate the cooking process. I never questioned why there are two switches to finalize the cooking process. It adds to that voice saying, “Are you sure you want to cook this? It’s caloric. You can turn back if you want to.” I push the voice aside and start to hear the clanking of the top lid against the body of the machine. It clanks and continues to make loud noises for 20 minutes. It is familiar. It signals, “Rice is coming, food will almost be done, we can eat soon, dad will sit on the left side, the kids in the middle, mom on the right side of the table.” Click. The switch flips up. It’s ready. I open the lid carefully to not get burned by the steam. The smell of rice overwhelms my senses– the warm, subtle sweetness transpires a feeling of fulfillment. I take the familiar white plastic rice serving paddle and scoop out some into my bowl. I tell myself, “That should be enough, for now.” I take a bite‒ it’s hot, soft, chewy, glutinous, sticky, and filling. “It’s caloric, it will go straight to your stomach, and don’t you dare go for seconds.” I push away the thoughts and continue to eat as if my family is seated around me, as if there are four main dishes, which would consist of two meat, one seafood, and one vegetable. Fantasy fades and, instead, reality surfaces to the foreground and it’s just me with white rice and scrambled eggs with scallions.
Who knew that rice and the act of making rice packed such depth and meaning? What was once a chore is now a symbolic process. What was once a simple task is now layered with nostalgia as well as intense fear of what it could become if I let myself eat out of control. I continue to eat the rice and acknowledge that it nourishes both my physical and emotional needs. Honoring the consumption of rice reminds me that I am love(d) and that it does not have to translate to an e(d) or an eating disorder. The (d) or disorder is a choice. Choosing to eat rice means that I am love to myself. I quietly tell myself, “I deserve to feed myself with nourishment and love” and recognize that the thought is transient, and hoping that it will stick, just like rice.