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Tammy Swift, Published April 05 2014

Swift: Family bonded by a strange obsession with food

Food, glorious food.

My family has always had a strange obsession with food.

Mention any holiday or special event, and I will immediately equate it with what we ate. My high school graduation? Angel food cake with almond icing. Easter? Mom’s Easter bread. My cousin Jill’s wedding? Carrot cake. (That’s right. It was a wedding that took place 35 years ago, and my only clear memory of that day is the cake.)

When the Swifts get together, we are bonded by three things: 1) embarrassing stories from our childhood, 2) the fact we live states apart and yet still somehow always wind up buying the same shoes and 3) food.

This all can be traced back to my mother, who is a phenomenal hostess and cook. If she’d been Marie Antoinette, she might have said: “Let them eat cake. But don’t forget the ice cream.”

We used to tease her about this. But recently, I found myself at a gathering, basically forcing innocent bystanders to try one of my raspberry-white chocolate-lemon scones. And then I realized it: I was an enabler. A carb pusher. Just like Mom.

I realized we shared many more similarities when it came to food. Many of these indicated a late-stage “fooddiction” of the highest order. Had I not been known to eat cheesecake before noon? Did I not once need to eat a cupcake before attending a child’s birthday party? Did I not spend as much time looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe as I did planning my career? Among the other characteristics I share with Mom:

• A conflicted relationship with food: Not surprisingly, this love affair with food has led to a rather hostile relationship with the scale.

The Swifts are nothing like Giada, who can show you how to make salami-provolone muffins, but still looks like she lives off three eyedroppers of hummingbird nectar a day.

And so we spend as much time dieting as we do feasting.

Mom demonstrates this internal struggle every time she presents us with dessert options. “I have homemade peanut butter pie with meringue,” she’ll say. “And I also have some nice low-fat, low-sugar boysenberry sherbet. Which would you like?”

• A search for the next fix: Many times, our family will have just finished one of our incredible meals and be sprawled out in the living room like sated manatees. Jeans will be unbuttoned; we’ll still be raving about the deliciousness of that pot roast or those homemade caramel rolls. And mom, in all seriousness, will turn to us and say: “What should we have for dinner tonight?”

• A need to hide food consumption: Anyone who has ever found themselves in the kitchen, gobbling cookie dough over the sink while the rest of your family sits clueless in the living room will know exactly what I’m talking about.

• An endless quest for food perfection: We’ll be gathered around the table, eating the best chicken and dumplings ever sculpted by human hands. And mom will announce, “I think this needs more salt. It was better the last time I made it.” And then she’ll offer you some pie to kill the pain.

• A tendency to use food to numb feelings: See previous post.

As I’ve grown older, I have developed a healthier relationship with food. I think everyone in our family has, including Mom. Even so, I will always hold a special place in my heart – and my thighs – for food.

You see?

The apple pie doesn’t fall far from the tree.


Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at tswiftsletten@gmail.com