By Joshua Owen
"I love how they put carpet on the ceiling. I think it's a bit gaudy, but it looks fun."
"It's not carpet, you rube," my wife responded.
I knew it was not carpet, but it did look like something that belonged on the floor, or at least a wall. In fact, a wall is exactly where it belonged. It was wallpaper. No matter, I was enjoying myself. I was drinking an old fashioned made with Bulleit. It's not pronounced like the bullet I shoot through one of my guns, but Boo-lay. Anyway, I had decided to bring my wife to The Virginian hotel to eat at the William and Henry dining establishment located in the lower lobby.
When our waitress approached our table for the first time she asked if we were celebrating a special occasion. My response was a polite, No. I try not to get stuck in the rhythm of celebrating special occasions. It makes the act of getting a nice meal or nice gift feel forced. Like, "here you go mom, I got you flowers because it's Mother's Day." Mothers and wives should be celebrated more than the days society says we should. I digress, the waitress went on to list the day's specials. Some of them sounded odd, but delicious all the same. I got the filet, rare, and a crab cake. My wife got the same. We shared a piece of key lime pie for dessert and had some coffee. The meal was delicious and, I think, good enough to bring me back to the restaurant someday.
The steak I had at the Virginian made me think of this other time I took my wife to a restaurant worthy of remembrance. It was 2011 and my wife and I were living in Savannah at the time. I took her to a place called Local 11ten for our third wedding anniversary. I know, I fell victim to the societal norm of celebrating important events. The place was fancy and I was woefully underdressed. I walked in wearing a collared shirt and a blaring-red St. Louis Cardinals hat.
Formal attire aside, the food was phenomenal. The steak was cooked to perfection and every aspect of the meal was outstanding. Savannah is full of good restaurants: The Pink House, Clary's Cafe, Vinnie Van Go-Gos, Molly MacPherson's. I have got great memories from them all. In fact, most of the memories I have involve food in some manner or form. The food is not always the centerpiece or the bright spot of the memory, but it plays a part.
I remember spending the summer of 2012 in Kandahar and the food being nothing less than hot garbage. The only salvageable part of each meal was the bread. So, I ate bread, sometimes with butter, sometimes with peanut butter, sometimes plain. In other food related news, I remember losing 57 pounds over the course of fifteen weeks in 2009 because of course I went to that specialized in food deprivation. There was nothing I wanted more than food, any food. I've got notebooks filled with lists, long lists of edible items I couldn't wait to get my hands on during that time. I would think about food when I was awake and would dream about food when I was asleep. I would talk to people about what food they wanted to eat, and we would share stories about the best this or the best that that we had ever had. I would concoct recipes and parley with God over making my stomach feel full. I had no choice in that food-less adventure, though, and I told myself I would never let myself be hungry again.
So then why, in 2015, did I decide to rid myself of all food for seven straight days? I needed a little bit of clarity and focus, that's why. Jesus did it for 40 days and he seemed to gain some mental clarity, so I figured it might work for me. I'm not talking about a juice fast or some such nonsense. I'm talking about water, only water, for a week. Ridding yourself of food forces you to think, about food mostly, but also about other things. I (you do it too) spend so much time thinking about the next meal. What am I having for dinner? What time should I eat? The topic of food is consuming, so ridding myself of the topic would, presumably, allow me to consume other, more indulging things.
The days were long and full of misery. There was a lot of self-motivating going over the course of the seven-day fast. To be clear, I did not have an eating disorder or any unhealthy habits when it came to eating. Simply put, I wanted to suffer a little bit to make sure I still had command of myself. If you are unfamiliar with how things go during a week-long misery fest, allow me to paint a picture.
Day 1. Yeah, I'm hungry but this isn't so bad.
Day 2. Man, I'm getting sick of water. Maybe if I drink more, I will feel full and satisfied.
Day 3. Damn, I have 4 days left. I don't think I can do this.
Day 4. Sleep. If I sleep 14 hours today, I only have to be miserable for 10.
Day 5. Let me try putting a coffee mug full of water into the microwave and heat it up. I can trick my body into thinking I'm eating soup.
Day 6. The only advertisements seen on television or heard on the radio are for food. Stop it!
Day 7. God, please let today end.
Day number eight feels phenomenal and, immediately after eating, I thought the past week wasn’t so bad. Except, it is that bad. It absolutely sucked. I remember on day 4 when I was sitting at the dinner table attempting to feed my 2-year-old son. He wanted no part of it. My other son was running around like a maniacal fool and there I was with a spoonful of something and there my little one was with pursed lips and a head shaking No. "Listen here, you ungrateful little dirt-bag, you don't know how good you've got it," I thought to myself. I won't soon forget the look on his face as he turned down the very thing I so desired.
For me, the ordeal was, in the end, worth it. I found my path forward and my wife and I grew closer together that week. Oh, I did not mention that we completed the task together? After listening to my plan to gain some focus, she wanted in. Yeah, I know, she is one hell of a women and an absolute babe. Our marriage wasn't suffering or anything. That's not why we needed clarity and focus. We were simply transitioning career paths and needed to make sure that we were making the right decisions. It worked; I think. We both found the answers we were looking for and gained some knowledge about ourselves and how to control our minds when it feels like there is too much going on.
So, food. It is funny how much time we spend considering it and planning around it. We need it to live and it acts as the centerpiece for many of the memorable things we experience in our lives. Too little can lead to some serious aggravation and too much can lead to disgusting fatness. The food though, is never the main course. Life revolves around it and there are so many events and holidays that rely on food to bring us all closer together. I love it because it is tied with so many great memories.
I love the bag of chili-cheese Fritos my wife and I shared in the hospital the night before our first son was born. I love the turkey I deep fry every year for Thanksgiving because of the conversation that takes place with my family around the fryer. I love the Virginian dinner because it set me up to look into my woman's eyes on a random Wednesday in October and fall in love just a little bit more. So, enjoy the food, enjoy the times, and enjoy the fact that we are blessed enough to live in a country that provides an environment to make it all possible.
Josh Owen is a training officer at BWXT. He is a family man, veteran, and recovering Lynchburger who now resides in the wilderness of Campbell County. In his off time, he enjoys reading, writing, and participating in the interests of his two sons.