I bought a set of three mini loaf pans from Amazon in November. Last week, I received an identical set, by mistake.

Amazon refunded the cost on my card, but said I did not have to return the pans.

Well, I had no use for six pans. If you make a standard quick bread recipe, three pans equals a full loaf. I cannot remember a time in my life when I needed to make six mini loaves. Certainly not now.

I had made a cranberry bread for Thanksgiving, and it put me in mind of days past when I made mini loaves and brought them to work for my colleagues to enjoy at Christmas. Maybe I could do the same this year.

But the truth was, once I started thinking about it, I had my doubts. Would anyone eat them?

In America in the 2020s, any group of people will include dieters, vegans and vegetarians. Some have gone off gluten or carbs. Others have allergies. That home-baked loaf stuffed with cranberries suddenly looks like a field laced with land mines.

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To be clear, I am not judging. I have food allergies, so I cannot eat anything without studying food labels, which usually makes food left for communal consumption at work off limits to me.

Also, I do not eat beef or pork, which has caused issues for others trying to feed me at certain points in my life. I remember freaking out at a business lunch because I discovered bacon in my turkey sandwich. I hate it when I clearly fill out the meal preferences form before events and then get something I cannot eat.

What I am saying is, “It is what it is.” But it is too bad, because eating is one of the great joys of life. It would be nice if we could all eat a slice of cranberry bread like it was 1999.

I had a chance to think recently about our complicated relationship with food when I found myself in intensive care, forbidden to eat or drink for a week. This situation resulted from complications during surgery.

At first, I was just receiving hydration through a tube in my nose. But after a few days, a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) was installed in a tube under the skin of my chest to provide nutrition.

Of course I could not taste anything, and the nurses assured me I would not want to.

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Although I initially reacted to my “no food or drink” order with shock and horror, the combination of the nasal tube and the PICC line killed any appetite I might have had.

When I tell people that, they react with disbelief, but it is true. I did not stop thinking about food, but I also did not really want to eat it. My husband, Paul, would visit every day around lunchtime. He would pop in to see how I was doing and then go get lunch at the hospital cafeteria. I always asked him what he had, and enjoyed hearing about it.

“Next week,” I would say to myself. “Next week.”

Although, I knew that once I was released from the hospital, I would be on juice and broth for days.

What I really wanted while at the hospital was food to break up the day, to relieve the boredom and anxiety. For example, on a stressful day near the end of my nine-day stay, I blurted to Paul: “I want a glass of pinot grigio and a bowl of tortilla chips with salsa. Right now!”

It is no secret people who have easy access to plentiful food can develop emotional eating issues. It is a major cause of weight gain.

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I have heard about a study in which moviegoers were given stale popcorn along with fresh. Viewers who routinely ate popcorn ate the old stuff, while those not in the habit left it behind.

Mindless eating is a thing, and I wanted to indulge in it with a handful of peanuts or cheese crackers while I read in the late afternoon.

On my last day at the hospital, I went for a walk through the halls of the unit. I saw that my next-door neighbor had what appeared to be a chicken salad sandwich waiting on a cart to be served.

I admit that at that point, I was insanely jealous.

When I finally came home, Paul and I resumed eating meals together. He kindly made me Cream of Wheat for breakfast. At first, I could only eat strained soups, but at least I was eating at a table with placemats and cloth napkins. The highlight of my day was a frozen yogurt bar after dinner. I rarely eat dessert, but I so looked forward to that treat.

Soon, I was able to move onto more solid foods, like mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. I could also eat white flour products, such as bread and crackers. Although I usually go for organic and whole grain, I found I was able to throw all of my natural food instincts out the window to fill my tummy.

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It is amazing how unfussy I could be when I had no other choice.

I can eat a normal diet now. I was able to gift the mini loaf pans to a young chef-in-training.

I think I should have made some cranberry bread and left it in the staff room as a holiday treat. Maybe somebody would have taken a slice — and a break from some special diet.

I could have left a note on it: “I ate white flour for a month and survived.”

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected]


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