It is 8:30pm and I have not had a single bite to eat for 25 hours. Only 12 or so more to go. Just took a long bath and it seems like I am going to get through this. Funny to think about it this way, but this fasting program is mimicking what couples do when they separate and “take some time apart” - giving me space to rethink my entire relationship with a lifelong partner, in this case, food. Today is the apex of the entire program, the biggest challenge and likely the longest I will go willingly without food for a long time.
Observing the body as it transitions from hunger to contentment and back and forth again offers me an inkling of that steady awareness held by Buddhist monks in far off forest monasteries. To experience what it is to sit and remain present with each emotion as it arises, without judgement or action. And really, I mean just an inkling. But we’ve got to start somewhere, right? Throughout the day, hidden deep within the distractions of working, driving, reading, taking a bath, I learn what it is to observe the delicate internal balance between want and need, story and truth, surrender and control.
As a chef I find deep joy in pure ingredients and honest cooking. This fasting program, guided by an Ayurvedic practitioner, has thankfully been less of a challenge to my food obsessed self than I imagined it would be. On the contrary, it has presented me with positive and surprising outcomes - increased libido, brighter skin, stronger fingernails and more focus. The impetus behind this undertaking was to boost my “agni” or digestive fire (like metabolism) and clear out my system to improve fertility and general wellness - sort of a last ditch effort for us before going to IVF.
My first chef used to say, “A hungry cook is a stupid cook”, insinuating that we had to take care of ourselves before we could take care of others. The past two months have been all about that for me, sort of a focused tending to mind and body. On a more day to day level in the kitchen, I do agree with him that hunger changes the taste buds, though not in the obvious ways. I thought that the abstaining would transform me into a heightened super taster. In fact, what I found was that I needed tricks to re-invigorate my tongue after fasting, maybe some chopped fresh ginger bathed in lemon juice, in order to awaken its more delicate sensibilities that had been quietly snuffed out by animalistic, ravenous desire.
Let’s leave it at that and talk in the morning, at the chime that marks 40 hours with only tea and water. Maybe I will cook myself an egg, gently in a warm puddle of butter, and finish it with a scattering of torn tarragon leaves and a grate of young pecorino. Maybe I will resist, my saliva congregating on the back of my tongue, at the ready, until that final crack of black pepper snaps me out of my empty bellied revery and back into my lovers arms. As the fork scrapes the final bit of eggy custard across the plate, it will all fade into a distant dream, as I wake again in the land of the living.