When I was younger – somewhere before the age of 10 – my favourite meal was a simple creation of tinned tomato spaghetti mixed together with mash potato and grated cheddar cheese. My fork smushing would make a lumpy pale orange mess, which I could never grow bored of eating (strangely enough the same colour as my favourite top at the time, a top which my mom said she had to sneak out of my drawer and bin to get me to stop wearing it). This yearning for soft foods that take little chewing and slide down your throat with ease has stayed with me until today, probably initially as a form of nostalgia, then changing along the way to make purging less of a painful experience.
I don’t normally feel the need to write “trigger warning” at the top of my pieces, as most people should be aware that our premise is to write about our experiences with eating disorders freely, but this piece felt a little different, given the specifics. It also felt a little more painful for me to re-live in comparison to previously less detailed writing, so I wouldn’t want anyone to be triggered by my experiences. But the reason I write this is because my deep adoration and tempestuous relationship with fish, chips and curry sauce has a happy ending, and I’d like for every bulimic to know that there is a silver lining, and it’s crispy and dripping with sauce.
My eating disorder has taken many different stages and developments, and at one point I got into a routine of making every Friday my “binge” day, which obviously involved purging at some point to compensate. After college and a week of starving myself, I would buy a large portion of fish and chips with a side serving of curry sauce, ready to pour over when I got home. For dessert, I would eat a sharing bar of Galaxy Cookie Crumble. I’d shortly after substitute what might’ve been a cheese course for some, to vomit everything back up into the toilet. I would do this because I once stupidly googled the calorie content of this entire meal, and frightened myself into never wanting to keep it all in my body, yet couldn’t resist such an indulgence forever.
This routine served me well for a while (and when I say well, I mean I lost weight initially), as during my spells as both a vegan and vegetarian – further methods I used to reduce my size, I could still eat the stodgy chips, minus the fish of course. But then, things became difficult. My addiction to throwing up my food became consuming, and I eventually graduated to bringing up everything I ate, putting added pressure on my skin, heart and already fragile mental health. I used to think that being able to make myself sick was a blessing, but it quickly became a monster. A monster that well could’ve killed me eventually.
A couple of years now into recovery, despite the heavy calorie count, I am able to once again enjoy fish, chips and curry sauce free from the shackles of guilt. Let me tell you why. There’s a law that states that fish and chips are only good in the North, and I think being in the Midlands we must’ve just about tagged onto this accomplishment, as fish and chips by where I live are fucking incredible. The chips must be soft and sloppy, crumbling under the weight of one another and porous enough to mop up plenty of salt and vinegar. By me in the Black Country, orange chips are also a thing. Don’t ask me why, I’ve never been a fan, but I suppose this showcases the seriousness of our love of chips that we had to invent our own kind. The fish must be crispy and takes a wallop to crack in order to expose fluffy flakes of haddock. The curry sauce will be lumpy and thick, cementing all these elements together. For me, there is no better comfort dish, and neither for my half-Catholic, half-Protestant family, who are willing to come together in agreement that fish and chips should be had every Friday, despite religious discrepancies.
There was a time when I wouldn’t order curry sauce to go on my chips in the presence of a boy because I wasn’t sure if it was weird or not. Now I could not give a fuck if I had it dribbling from my nostrils as a herd of gorgeous men passed me by. I love it too much to listen to anyone, not even my own mind, telling me that it might be gross. Although I have swapped my large portion for a mini and I’m no longer terribly interested in chocolate, I am very proud of myself that I am now able to enjoy this meal, that’s wobbly nutritional value once filled me with horror. I am proud of myself for allowing myself to enjoy what brings me pleasure. But most of all, I am proud of my parents for deciding to migrate to an area of the UK that could serve a cracking portion of fish, chips and curry sauce, because I’m not sure life would be worth living otherwise.