Whenever I go out to dinner with a group, I’m invariably the first one finished eating. My meals at home (I live alone) are simple and quick. I read while eating, table manners ignored, and do a fast cleanup before returning to work. Over the years, many people have noted that I eat faster than anyone they’ve ever seen. Why?
I attribute my rapid eating to two factors: hunger when I was a child and little time to eat on the battlefield.
In recent posts, I’ve mentioned in passing that as a child I often didn’t get enough to eat. My mother and I, living alone (my father was in prison), were desperately poor due primarily to her alcoholism. Frequently there was no food in our apartment in the slums. I had no choice but to do without.
So when I had a chance to eat, I gobbled down my food as fast as I could, never sure where my next meal would come from.
As a young man, working for the National Security Agency (NSA) in Vietnam, my job was on the battlefield, supporting U.S. troops (both army and Marines) with signals intelligence about the North Vietnamese, our enemy. If the troops and I had time to eat at all, we considered ourselves fortunate. I learned to cram down C-rations quickly before the fighting started again.
Eating as fast as possible became an ingrained habit. As a result, I see food less as a pleasure than as a necessity. Eating is almost a waste of time. The sooner finished, the better.
As I age, I’m struck by the degree experience shapes us. As we live, so go our lives.