My husband has been on a quest to reunite himself with his faith, which is, of course, Greek Orthodoxy. Most people that know me know that I am lukewarm, at best, towards religion in general (I don’t discriminate, I dislike all religions equally) but I accept my husband’s faith because it is part of who he is.
One thing that is critical in Greek Orthodoxy is fasting. If you don’t fast, you aren’t supposed to take communion. I don’t know if it is like this in Catholicism, but every other church I’ve been to that has communion doesn’t seem to make such requirements. Maybe I just never knew about it, and they do. I guess it doesn’t matter though, because I don’t take communion, except once by accident.
So my husband’s spiritual advisor has asked him to start fasting on Fridays, eventually to extend to Wednesdays (I don’t really know why these are the designated fasting days of the week, because if you take communion on Sunday you have to fast Saturday, but whatever – I’m sure there is a reason somewhere, I just don’t know it). While I don’t have to fast, I have decided to join him in fasting, because what kind of asshole eats meat or cheese or something in front of someone who is fasting? In other words, I am trying to be supportive, and besides, what does it hurt to remove all animal-related products from your diet once or twice a week (when we get to those 40 and 50 day fasts before Christmas and Easter, we’ll have to renegotiate).
I never realized how many foods contain some form of animal product until we started this fasting business. Foods that I think might be alright when I look at the packaging end up containing eggs or butter. Luckily, our favorite brand of pasta does not include egg, so pasta is an acceptable fasting food. I also found some nice frozen foods that are sans animal products – veggie burgers, potato croquettes, and kolokithokefetedes (my favorite!). And of course there are beans, rice, and things like that, although I don’t fancy beans and really hate rice. At any rate, fasting one or two days a week is manageable, or so I thought.
Getting by with no meat is fairly easy. While I enjoy me a tasty critter, I don’t have extreme urges for meat. In fact, when I was single, I rarely ate meat. Moving to the meat eating capital of the world increased my intake significantly, so having an excuse not to eat it is actually a relief. Milk isn’t so difficult to go without either – sure, as an aging woman I try to drink a glass or two a day, but sometimes I don’t. So sue me. Eggs I never eat, and butter isn’t much of an issue. The only time these things are a problem is when they show up on the ingredients list of something I’d like to eat.
The only thing that has caused any grief in this whole fasting experience is the lack of cheese. I don’t eat cheese every day. I don’t think to myself on a daily basis “wow, I must have cheese”. Yet for some reason, on fasting days, the only thing I can think about cheese. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. I think of how wonderful cheese is. I think about everyday, practical items being made of cheese. I see warm, melted cheese everywhere. It gets to the point where I honestly believe if I don’t have cheese the world will have some sort of temporal disruption that causes the end of all cheese. A world without cheese would be pretty damn serious. I must save the world and eat some cheese! But then I’d break the fast. And then I’d feel guilty. So I keep thinking “tomorrow I can have some cheese” but then the devil breathes in my ear, “but you CAN have cheese. Cheese is good. Must have cheese. Now. Get some cheese”. Then I start to realize what a weird word cheese is. It looks strange. Really odd. Like tree. I can’t take those double e words. But maybe if I eat some cheese, it won’t seem so strange to me. But I can’t. I can’t eat cheese. No way, no how. But my body needs the cheese! Oh, God, why hast thou forsaken my cheese?!
This internal dialogue actually goes on for so long that by the time I’m done obsessing, it is time for bed, and then I wake up and it is Saturday and I can have cheese again. Phew.
Except then I don’t want any cheese.