I was at a professional development the other week that included people from different schools — as in, people who were total or near strangers to me. I sat by some of them. At one point, I got up to engage in some mandatory participation. When I returned to my seat, the two strangers were talking about food. Or rather, one was asking the other about his eating habits.
“… -ly vegetarian.” I caught the tail end of the man’s remark.
“So what do you eat?” the blond woman next to him wanted to know. “You just eat vegetables? You don’t eat any meat at all?”
He shrugged. “Meat maybe on time per week.”
“So what do you eat, then?” She repeated. “Vegetables? Just vegetables?”
At this point, I admit, I was full on — and probably not subtly — listening in on their conversation. To be fair, however, it was held at a volume that made it difficult not to overhear. I was curious as to whether she was genuinely confused about what the term vegetarian meant (totally reasonable in my area, even for an educated person, if English is not their first language — though I have nothing to suggest if this woman is a non-native English speaker) or whether she was, erm, on the pushier end of personalities when it came to other people’s eating habits.
“I eat vegetables,” he nodded slowly.
“What about fruit?” she pressed. “Do you eat fruit?”
He was turned slightly away from me, so I couldn’t see his face, just the back of his head. “I eat fruit.”
The woman’s face, I could see, and I watched her brows knit together and her mouth turn down. “What about dinner? What do you eat for dinner? Do you eat meat for dinner?”
This is the point where I thought to myself, Jesusfuck. He is probably already including that in what he eats generally.
“I said,” the man responded, “I eat meat at probably one meal per week. Sometimes that is dinner, sometimes not.”
“What do you eat, then, for dinner? Do you just have salads? Fruit?”
“What about beans? Do you eat beans?”
“White rice or brown rice?”
Due to some other movement in the room, I couldn’t hear his answer, but I saw the woman exhale, in what sort of looked like a sigh of relief. She said, “I eat brown rice but not white rice. And I eat fish, but I don’t eat meat.”
Then she looked past the man to me. “What about you, what do you eat?”
By now, of course, I’d heard the train of questioning, and I was really in no mood for the twenty question food inquisition. I’m not ever, really, but at that moment, I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet. I forced a smile. “Food.”
“But what kind of food is ‘food’?”
This is probably the place where my internal smile became a little evil. “All the kinds of food are ‘food.’”
“Yes, but do you eat all of them?”
“Of course not. There’s enough food to feed six billion people in the world. I’d be really full long before I ate all of that.”
“I mean meat, vegetables, fruit, rice, bread, beans, soda, chips, fast food. Do you eat everything you like, or just what’s good for you?” She was sounding increasingly agitated.
I considered. “Right now,” I said, “I just want to finish my coffee.”