I promised my host family I wouldn’t eat their food even though they insisted that it was not a problem. They already had two children and the last thing they needed was another mouth to invade their pantry. Besides, they were already letting me reside in their house for free so I felt that helping myself would be too much.
I don’t know what it was or why, but the next morning I woke up with my stomach practically begging for food. Perhaps from all the traveling combined with the anticipation of being in another, new environment. Regardless of what the reason was, all I knew was that I needed to eat something. Anything. Their son, Lucas, stayed home that day with the flu. He welcomed me into their kitchen as any generous host would.
“Here is the fridge,” he smiled. “Help yourself to whatever you like.”
“Thank you, but just an apple is fine with me.” I lied.
I sat down at the table and began slicing my fruit into bite sized morsels--hoping this would sustain me until I could venture elsewhere to find food. I was wrong, and even worse, pandora’s box had opened. One slice of bread turned into four jelly smothered sandwiches, two apples, three breakfast bars, and a bowl of peanut butter in which I devoured as though it were soup. Despite feeling relatively satisfied I ...just... couldn’t... stop.
I gazed down at my swollen stomach with an overwhelming sense of self-disappointment. I thanked their son and silently vowed to never touch anything from their kitchen, ever again.
Later that day I received a text from my host mother, Pavla, inviting me over for dinner. I felt guilty breaking my promise but I desperately wanted to spend quality time with this amazing family. Dinner together seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.
To regain control over my relentless appetite, I had a small meal of canned beans and bread to fill my stomach. Annoyingly, upon arrival I found myself to be once again, utterly starving. I deliberately chewed every bite with the intention to stop after one serving-- but then it happened again. Pandora’s box round two.
Whenever the family left the kitchen I would secretly help myself to second, third, or sometimes four helpings. I was scavenging at this point and practically licking my plate clean. Scraps, leftovers, anything. The meal wasn’t anything spectacular, fried rice and a serving of meat, but considering I had been living off of canned beans and bread during most of my travel, anything home cooked tasted amazing.
Bread, butter, rice, apples, meat, whatever I could find was shoved in my mouth. Despite feeling that I was subtle, I’m sure my host family noticed food disappearing every time they re-entered the room. They most likely didn’t bat an eye but to there was something so remarkable about a home cooked meal.
It was my last night in Prague and I made sure to eat a fulfilling dinner before returning home. I even timed it so that my arrival would be well after they finished eating. Pleased by a well executed plan, I joined my host family in the living room for games and movies.
Pavla, almost immediately, walks over with a large batch of rich, homemade pastries scattered amongst a large platter.
“Have as many as you like,” she insisted.
“Only one,” I smiled hoping she didn’t notice when I later ate about six.
It was the morning of my departure and everyone woke up early to see me on my way. A part of me that felt rather remorseful for eating as much as I did, but I also hadn’t felt that rejuvenated in a long time.
Right before I was about to leave the word ‘wait’ echoed in my direction. I turned to find Pavla extending a breakfast bar in my direction.
“I’m a mother,” she began sweetly. “I know you will be hungry. Take this with you.”
It was a little breakfast bar. Nothing special. But I swear, that might have been the best breakfast bar I have ever had.