Goodbye, Styrofoam

17 Feb 2020

Lunch of rice porridge and its accompanying condiments on clay/ ceramic crockery.

For years I had been eating my lunch, and sometimes dinner, out of styrofoam boxes.

I would be shoveling food absent-mindedly into my mouth with a flimsy plastic spoon that threatened to snap at any moment, while staring at the school computer screen, and trying to process the flood of emails worded by equally stressed out co-workers.

Meanwhile, I was also tracking time on the bottom of the screen and waiting for the dreaded bell that signalled the end of my meal break and the start of lesson, to ring.

Is this what being a full time school teacher has made me?

Meal times are sacred. It honours earth’s bounty and the hands that prepare food, not to mention my salary that goes to pay for them.

Yet most of the time, I was too anxious to even finish my styrofoam box packed lunch of 1 meat and 2 vegetables combo, much less to savour the flavours.

The table cloth is a humble old world feature that seems to have disappeared.

When I stopped working full time, one of the things I was very determined to do was to prepare my own meals in the most fuss free manner possible, and serve them on REAL crockery. The crockery could be clay, metal, or glass, because the time of eating from receptacles made of petroleum by-products had to end.

My misgivings of disposable food containers did not originate from health concerns or from the love of the environment. It was a lot more self-centred.

Using disposable food containers on a near daily basis makes me feel cheap. It tells me that I’m not worthy of real plates & real spoons or real chopsticks. Like the disposables, I can be carelessly thrown away too.

I’m fine with eating food wrapped in paper because paper is flat. Paper doesn’t try to look like a container & mock me.

As the anxieties of holding a full time job and courting approvals decrease, my satisfaction with the simplest of meals taken without hurry or without people talking over my head increases.

My cats eat from stainless steel plates from Thailand (yes, Zebra Brand) and Ollie drinks from a clay bowl made in Japan.

As a human being I delight in cakes served on paper doily and food on washable ceramic wares or banana leaves. A well seasoned but clean table cloth made from real cotton adds a special charm of its own during meal times.

“吃饭皇帝大” meaning “every person is emperor at meal time,” is a Chinese folk saying. It shows respect accorded to someone who is having his meal (eating rice). And by this gesture to honour Rice, a gift from Mother Earth.

These days I get to eat my rice porridge where plants by my window quietly grow.

I think of people eating from styrofoam boxes while being harassed by all kinds of demands & deadlines. And I remind myself to always try to be considerate and respect people when they are taking their meals, especially if they’re eating out of styrofoam containers.

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