Hiking with a Chocolate Dog

We hiked through Newlands Forest this morning. The path while sometimes bending and twisting up and down was flat for the most part. As it lead into the canopy its surface changed from rocks and dust to a raised wooden footpath. The landscape shrunk to dense greens and browns through which the dogs would swim and clamber. Areo, our chocolate Labrador, was always fascinating to watch. She was both regal and gluttonous, sluggish and supremely agile. Walks were an opportunity for her to display her potential energy that she would happily conceal when lounging around at home. She was the chocolate drop, at home slipping from the couch to the floor to the other couch, always fitting her cumbersome and floppy bulk to her place of rest. On the walk she was a torrent. She poured down steep rocky descents, flowing through our legs and at the bottom she would stir about gently. Her golden eyes watching us and seeming to ask a very pure yet elusive question.

I often wondered how much she knows. She is intelligent and possibly very perceptive. Perhaps when she looks at me she is somewhat aware of subtleties of character, of my inner-turmoil and is trying to console me. She is a beautiful dog and perhaps as we do with all beautiful creatures, we ascribe far more to them than they ask for. She is a hungry dog and would raid the bins every night if the “Please Lock: Areo” bin locks were not fastened. She’s probably just trying to telepathically compel me to give her some food.

We reached the designated picnic point of our walk, a raised wooden construction built around a thin chopped down tree. This was the halfway point of our hike, the horizontal peak, and as such required the ingestion of some snacks. I had brought some chopped up croissants, my mom some grapefruit and apple slices and her friend a flask of coffee and some cups. “It is such a pity women are such light eaters” I thought to myself as I gorged myself on the remaining croissant pieces. I dipped a piece into my coffee (something I was told was ‘the French way’ by a woman I had had a fling with a while ago. I have since been told otherwise and so now not quite sure of the correct procedure, claim to dunk the croissants for sentimental value. The truth is that I just like dunking things in my coffee) before unctuously noshing on it. Creamy, coffee-y, buttery, my mouth’s relationship with this dunked pastry was intimate and all-encompassing. As it flaked and dissolved into the ether of my digestive system the familiar sense of longing and abandonment, the defining symptoms of pastry heartbreak, began to rise within me. My fingers (Note: plural) swept up the residual flakes that lined the Tupperware container. Ah, bless croissants flakiness. I am a clingy lover when it comes to pastries but our affair was well and truly over (for now) and so after eating the remaining, but this time offered fruit slices, we moved on.

It really was an easy hike and I was midway through convincing myself to go on a run later in the day when we came across a fork in the path. The decision was made to go left, turning up an incline instead of going right and continuing to wobble downhill. This was the motivation I needed to not go on a run later, the uphill had settled it. “No need to do two exercise activities.” It said gently. And gentle it was. Within a minute of walking the slope evened out and the path began to lazily undulate amongst the grass in front of us. I thanked the slope for its kindness and continued altruistically at the back of the group, making sure everyone had the chance of a view uninterrupted by a sad, inwardly deteriorating glutton. I cursed myself as I finally took note of the butterfly flapping in and out of my field of vision. I’m on a lovely hike with friends, family and dogs and I’m unable to enjoy it, to be in it. I spent my time gobbling food and forming lazy abstractions for the purpose of distracting myself. If I begin to start distracting myself from eating I’ll have to take direct action, something extreme to jolt this feeling from my being, to shatter this foggy mirror which dullens everything whilst forcing my perceptions back into me.

Life is Like a Bowl of Milky Granola

 

Strong coffee propels me forward and into the page. Black hurried squiggles of a man with low-pressure commitments stacked pleasantly for the day ahead suggested stress or tiredness. I was guilty of gluttony yesterday. This was proved beyond reasonable doubt when after seconds of supper and the remainder of the ice cream I had made myself a second bowl of milky granola, this time with a crumbled sugar cone. My stomach practically burst with each mouthful. The usual glowing inner-hug I felt after eating was replaced with images of the grey boerewors from earlier looking even greyer as it writhed in the milky mire of my stomach. It was curling and writhing viciously, seemingly intent on rupturing out of my chest as if it was from Alien. Of course there wasn’t a long unchewed piece of boerie in my stomach, I didn’t deepthroat it down whilst pouring lubricative milky ice cream to ease the process. I may as well have, I felt disgusted. Not only that, but the crumbled sugar cone went completely soggy and offered nothing in the way of texture or flavour to the dish. I was disappointed. Finding a sitting position that didn’t threaten the dormancy of the alien life form was also difficult and so after completing some work I made myself a soothing mug of peppermint tea. Since I was wounded and unwell, the tea was medicinal and was therefore administered joylessly.

Fuck, the coffee’s finished. I had quite a wonderful thought yesterday (or terrible, depending on which side of the inferiority-complex seesaw I choose to sit). Food is like life. The more you eat, the less there is on the plate. I will use the bowl milky, vanilla seed granola (usually made with dates, coconut flakes, a drizzle of honey, and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg) that prompted this insight to further explain the analogy. As we begin our lives we are faced with the full bowl with only the milky surface actually visible, save a few specks of spices or sesame seeds. The world is unknown, our lives are for the most part sheltered from anything hard or substantial. It is also pure in that sense and the first spoons are delightful, simple, and easy. Vanilla honeyed milk with only the softest resistance of floating sesame seeds testing our milk teeth. Ah, but we grow more inquisitive and brazen. Our spoons delve deeper and we begin to encounter the granola. The granola is harder and more substantial. It requires chewing, an action that like hard work is often its own reward. We become enthralled. The crunches pop with moments of delectable sweetness as unctuous chunks of dates are scooped up in the process. Aahh, the joys of life. It all begins to mix extraordinarily well, the flavours, the textures, all the while wonderfully accompanied by that never-ending pool of milk.

Or, it was never-ending, but as you pause to take a leisurely sip of your grandma’s homemade kombucha tea you have a moment of reflection. You are already half-way, maybe more, maybe less, and a feeling of dread attempts to set in. Here the mind will dictate how the rest of bowl will go. Every spoon from here on out not only depletes the milky granola, but does so at an increasing rate.  You could have never have known but the bowl is conical, the longest years of your life have already happened. You could attempt to bury this thought, let it become a dull but ever-present force that will destabilise that inner peace you had felt.  You could begin to eat it faster, ignoring your body’s pleas to slow down, you don’t care, or you say you don’t as with tears in your eyes you shove mound after mound into your mouth. You barely chew and swallowing becomes painful. Take a breath, there’s still so much left, you made yourself a big bowl after all. Take a spoonful, savour it, that spoon had two date chunks in it, would you have known otherwise?

We are getting close to finishing our bowl of milky granola. We are beginning to feel content and quite full. There are more dates at the bottom. Our smaller, more conscientious spoonfuls do little to slow the milks progress down the sides of the bowl. We have enjoyed it and feel restful. We make peace with the pangs of helplessness and greed for another bowl. We scrape the sides dotted with memories of times before. Our spoon has done all it can, there is no more granola left, just a shallow but richly flavoured puddle of milk at the bottom. Finally with a smile on our face, we grab the bowl with both hands, raise it to our mouth and take our last sip. A dribble of milk runs down the side of our chin and we recline with our eyes closed back into the chair.

I open my eyes and look at my phone. Ah, it’s already 11:00 am, a couple more hours and I’ll have some lunch.

Thou Shalt Not Waste

By Shaun Clamp

 

It was a misty and carboliscious morning. Breakfast was at Granny’s and that meant that my already naturally relaxed arms were about to be twisted, forcing my head and torso into the spread of Weetbix, hot cross buns, and crackers that she had laid out. Thanks to my aikido training I went with the motion and offered no resistance. Luckily I possess an iron gut and an infinite resolve when it comes to food and as such would never let mere overindulgence at breakfast get in the way of lunch.

God seemed to have an issue with gluttony. Although it wasn’t a commandment, not being a glutton is still considered a strong rule. This rule is at odds with my own equally righteous mantra, Thou Shalt Not Waste. What results from the clash of laws is a morally beige area, a narrow road that I must walk across. This path happens to be as narrow, as beige and as acrossy as the glistening crosses that adorned those sweet, spicy buns I had dutifully enjoyed moments earlier.

It is Easter, a time where the guilt for killing Jesus is replaced with a guilt for eating too many glazed buns and chocolate eggs. Feeling guilty for eating is like feeling guilty for breathing and feeling guilty for overeating is like feeling guilty for doing cardio. Guilt is not what we should feel and neither is hunger. If we wish to repent then we should do cardio. Such is the circular and on the surface hard-to-argue-with reasoning I tell myself.

I am aware of the benefit of coffee’s diarrhoetic properties for my food pilgrimage. Like the donkey who lightened the burden of carrying the cross to its destination, coffee helps move the carb-heavy hot cross buns through my digestive system, allowing them to be bathed in a pool of pure white (porcelain) before disappearing into the ether. For this I give thanks.

I am getting a bit concerned that my writing with regards to food has become an exercise in crowbarring metaphors. As a writing technique it’s as lazy and self-serving as myself serving myself a milky bowl of granola at 12:30 am.

Shortly after breakfast it was time to go for lunch. We went to Overture. The restaurant was nestled amongst olive trees that swept in the wind. It was fairly high up the slope of a mountain. The weather was cloudy and the light was gently distilled through the clouds into a soft white. The food was delicious. The sense of urgency surrounding mealtimes that has developed recently was present. I wanted to try everything and thanks to our group being all girls (besides me) I was the designated human hoover. Leftovers were passed without question to my corner of the table. I suppose I should have felt self-conscious when the waiter would collect three or four empty plates from me after every course, but I didn’t. My finger would begin to tap impatiently within minutes of the table being cleared. My all-seeing eyes were acutely aware of every crumb that remained and would automatically assess which ones were large enough to warrant consumption. The miniature crane operator tugged heavily on its levers, my arm raised, my index finger and thumb separated. A thoughtless expression rested on my face, my eyes thoughtlessly rested upon a spot on the table. My arm swung mechanically across before halting. The miniature crane operator knew he needed to be quick. The action must be discreet but natural, it could not appear to be the product of intense deliberation. The claw without missing a beat lowered over a largish piece of sourdough crust before closing. The claw swept up in an arc and dropped the piece into my mouth with a final push. My jaw crunched.

If eating brings out your inner child, then I was a selfish, greedy little shit. And I was. My finger began to tap impatiently. I stared at the window which looked out across the expansive valley, and noticed only the waiters’ movements in its reflection.