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Please review this, I'd want to see how the general community would respond as I took a somewhat unconventional approach to this prompt and I'm unsure if it'd do well in the competition, as this is my first time entering.

A Collection of Anecdotes Regarding Food

June 5, 2020

    The concept of identity is a curious thing.
    Middle school lunch is a chaotic mass of three hundred kids jammed tight into a 100 by 100 foot space. I’ve elected to hide in a corner with 3 of my closest friends and nobody else, poking at my misshapen salad. I’m trying to lose weight, and I binged last night so I should stay a hundred calories under my goal. My stomach growls, and I longingly think of what I could have for dinner. I glance at the clock, and stand up to throw away the rest of my mămăligă, a dish similar to polenta. I decided it had too many carbs and calories a long time ago.
    My mother greets me as I enter my home a few hours later, take off my shoes, and go place my lunch box on the counter-top. “I hope you didn’t throw anything away today. You know how much time and money I spend into making food for you.”
    My heart skips a beat. “But I wasn’t hungry!”
    “Copil obraznică.” (insolent child) She shakes her head, not bothering to even look at me. “You’re lucky your father and I took an oath to not hit our children. Go do your homework.”
    A few months pass and the yellow mush just sits there, while my parents are off in another world, chattering about politics with various family friends. I hate going to the festival every year. It’s just as boring as regular church, and it’s a waste of my time. I could have been so productive during these eight hours at home. I grab my fork and take a tentative bite. The polenta tastes like somewhere else, just how I like it. 
    I’m not just a regular American white girl, right? I know a second language and visit Europe every two years and take off my shoes in the house like all of my friends. My parents are strict about grades and they give me strange food to eat and I have a somewhat difficult to pronounce last name. 
    But when I get back to school, all people see is a fat white girl.
    I eat my entire plate in ten minutes, but am too ashamed to ask for more. There’s a little thought nagging about numbers in the back of my head, but it’s okay if I don’t think about that for a day. Even though I said that the day before, and the one before then, and I’ll never end up looking as pretty as everyone else because of my weight. But I settle on buying some cotton candy, and talk with my friends until the sun sets and the seemingly endless folk music stops and my mom calls me to start the drive the one hour back home.
    School is more stressful than ever this year and I don’t know how to handle it. I have a project that’s a quarter of my grade due in a month and I’m arguing with my closest friend about the premise of the entire thing.     
    “Vino jos!” (come downstairs) my sister calls, and I oblige, thankful for a distraction. Mămăligă again, fine. I grab two large wooden-spoonfuls and eat so quickly that my parents don’t have a chance to ask me anything. My stomach wasn’t even hungry to begin with, and I’m much less so now. But I really don’t want to think about school any more. It’ll just stress me out and eating food makes me happy. 
    The year flies by.
    “Good day,” My cousin says to a stranger eying us on the street. We were going to the well to get some cool water. This summer is one of Europe’s hottest, and of course I’m stuck in rural Romania during it. “I’m Alessia, and this is Jessica. She’s American.” My smile doesn’t reach my ears and internally my thoughts are racing. Why does she introduce me as American? Am I not Romanian as well? I eat Romanian food too. Just because I have a bit of an accent and I don’t understand the grammar perfectly and I speak English at school doesn’t mean I’m not like you, right?
    “Jessica.” The man leans on his makeshift cane, testing the word in his mouth. It doesn’t sound right in this language. I hate that my parents gave me this name. 
    “If you’re American, then why are you here?”
    “I’m visiting family.” I respond.
    “Oh, so you’re still a child then. Once you’re older, you won’t come back.” He eyes me, and then turns his back and leaves.
    I want to banish the American in me away and never have it come back.
    My grandmother calls us over for dinner. My cousin squeals when she sees the mass of yellow on a large wooden board. Everything does taste better here. The stupid American stores couldn’t even compare to the natural taste of food in Europe. Nobody here seems overly obsessed with appearance either. Maybe eating disorders are just an American thing. 
    It’s winter break, I’m home, and I have nothing to do. I’ve spent the past few hours watching mindless videos, and I got a sudden burst of inspiration to do some googling about my history. I was promised to learn European history last year, and all they talked about was France, Britain and Russia. I stumble upon an article about mămăligă, and decide to click on it, why not.
    One of the more interesting facts is about this dish is that it works as a substitute of bread. So then we were too poor for real bread, right? That’s why they only teach about Western Europe. I close the browser and stare out the window. I’m from a communist-stricken second-world country, what’s there to be proud of? Nobody even knows about it anyway, and I decide that it’s better that way.
    Oh, identity is a curious thing.


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  • June 5, 2020 - 9:12pm (Now Viewing)

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