I have a shameful relationship with food. For years, most of my life really, I have abused food in ways that should land me in a dank church basement, sitting in a circle, ruminating out loud on my past to a group of strangers who slowly and painfully nod their heads in recognition. I feel I have legitimately destroyed my body by eating at all times of the day and night just for the taste. I hated it. I hated how I felt every morning of my life, bloated and angry with myself, repeating again and again that it would be the last time. It never was. I don’t know why I ate like I did, but when I took steps to stop myself I noticed that I never seemed to feel hungry anymore. After exercising, I would feel woozy or hangry, but I never felt the empty hunger in my stomach. Decades of eating all the time stripped me of that ingrained survival tactic. I was a fat, spoiled mess. And I blame Home Alone for it.
Toward the end of the 1991 holiday comedy classic, there is a scene where Kevin McCallister sits down to eat a plate of the most delicious looking Kraft Dinner I have ever seen in my life. The way the light hits the glowing gold noodles makes my mouth water in a dangerous way, even now as I type this. That’s when it began. Watching the movie dozens of times as an 8 yearold, I used to look forward to that moment as if it was a sex scene. I’d lick my lips, rub my fingers together, and curl my toes in my socks. Those few precious seconds were better than the breasts you saw in Body Chemistry or the rough realistic sex scenes in Inner Sanctum.
If you’re American you may know it as “macaroni & cheese dinner.” It was first released in the late 1930s and was a popular food due to the rationing of milk and dairy caused by the second world war. It was cheap and didn’t need to be refrigerated. The nutritional label advises that you split a box into 4 portions, but who could ever be satisfied with that? The thought of eating a child-sized handful of that creamy orange crack would just make me depressed. It is also completely customizable. YouTube is full of incredible variations to make Kraft Dinner, mostly revolving around the idea that it needs more nutritional value. But being mostly disconnected in the ‘90s, Kraft Dinner recipes were through word of mouth. Everyone had their own method. My friend Adam would use half a stick of butter and a healthy squirt of ketchup. I think he is in prison now, or at least he should be. Growing up, my parents and every parent I knew bought it by the box for their own little Kevin McCallisters. It was an endless supply. And as we grew up, we were left home alone all summer long, to do whatever we wanted. All I wanted to do was eat. I taught myself how to use the stove and cover my tracks, just like a cunning Kevin would.The weight began to pile on.
Once everyone was sound asleep in the house, I’d quietly retrieve my war horse, the medium sized pot. I’d fill it to the brim with salty water and watch it come to a boil. I’m not sure what exactly I did while it was coming to a boil, mind you. I assume that I just…watched it come to a boil? It seems even more insane that way. Next, I would dump in a handful or two of extra pasta, from whatever bag was in the cupboard. This always made for an interesting contrast of pasta styles: The thick yellow quality rotini occasionally kicked up to the top of the rolling boil, only to be engulfed by the bottom of the barrel grey, cardboard garbage pasta that Kraft used. After a 6 minute boil, I would drain the pasta. Here is where things would get weird. Instead of returning it to the pot, I would dump the contents onto a plate. I’d use a fork to spread a small amount of butter on the top layer of the noodles, and then open the package. You know the one I refer to. That bright orange cheese dust. If clowns did cocaine, that’s what it would look like. I would sprinkle that clown cocaine all over the bed of pasta, eat a layer, spread a little more, eat that layer and so on until the noodles were gone.
Years. I did this for years. It was always a private affair. Whoever I was living with had no idea I was indulging like this a few times a week for most of my life. I would sacrifice sleep. Sacrifice socializing. Sacrifice my health for my obsession with food. You could say I grew out of it eventually. In my late 20’s and early 30’s I toned it way down. Part of it was the realization that I was killing myself but a bigger part of it was practical. As I aged, I couldn’t be bloated and running on three hours of sleep as often as I was in my younger years. I began exercising and understanding nutrition in an effort to get my shit together to counter the aging process. I haven’t had Kraft Dinner in years, and the last time I craved it, I was in Jamaica of all places. By the time I got back home the need had passed.
I haven’t watched Home Alone in a long time, but this Christmas maybe I will put it on. Before the final act begins, when Kevin sits down at his dining room table for a meal, I’ll excuse myself to use the washroom. Stare at myself in the mirror, try to control my salivating mouth and lie to myself that my world doesn’t revolve around that clown cocaine anymore.
Rob White is a Canadian-based award-winning filmmaker and part-time author. Follow him on Instagram @robwhitemakemakesstuff