23 May 2022
Breadline Voices: Pasta related PTSD
By Kathleen Kerridge, mother of four, Portsmouth
"Pasta related PTSD sounds as though I was stabbed by Linguine in the Battle of the Penne, but it’s less of a joke than it sounds.
"I’m brought to my knees by the sight of pasta and tomatoes. This one dish makes my throat close up, and my heart skitter in my chest as cold sweat soaks me.
"It tastes of my experience of Food Poverty. Of walking around five different shops every evening, scouring shelves for yellow stickers and food on its use-by date, on the cusp of being rotten, because I could get it home, cook it and freeze it.
"Pasta and tomatoes tastes like tears; like empty cupboards and processed rubbish that fills a hole but offers little in the way of nutrition - that is what I see, when I’m faced with this dish. It looks so innocuous; it’s only 20p spaghetti and a tin of chopped tomatoes.
"But, Food Poverty affects more than most people consider. When I was going through the very worst of it, my focus was entirely on survival. It was like fighting a personal war - survival is all there is.
"The world becomes very small - is there a roof over your head, will you be able to eat today, is there money on the electric key? Everything else becomes redundant, and there’s no time to think about it anyway.
"When you are fighting a battle to make it from one day to the next, you don’t give thought to a future.
"It never occurred to me, that my family would be plagued by eating disorders and disordered eating; a fear of eating in public; a terror of grocery shopping; the inability to eat certain foods; a reluctance to enter restaurants…
"I can’t have empty cupboards. The fear is too great. I can’t have more than three days worth of food in my house, either. It vanishes immediately - the compulsion to eat, while food is available, is strong in my household.
"It will be binge-eaten, picked at, snacked on and will be gone before sunset. Anything fresh is gone so swiftly, I swear I have locusts living with me. Food, in my house, represents more than something to eat.
"It’s so fundamentally important to have the security of food in the fridge, and the cupboards. Lack of it causes panic attacks. And pasta with tomatoes has the power to make me cry."
This is part of Breadline Voices, a series from The Food Foundation highlighting the realities faced by millions of families plunged into food and fuel poverty as food prices reach a 40-year high.