I touched an open bag of celery the other day, but quickly withdrew my hand. Yikes, that was close.
When I was child, I was a picky eater. I had an over-developed gag reflex which I honed to perfection. No green thing could touch my lips and my food was not allowed to congregate. I pretty much subsisted on dry cereal, cheese, corn, and buns. Many a night, I sat at the table vacantly staring at the cold, bacteria-laden dinner I refused to eat. My parents had to warn me before going to someone’s house that I was to sit by my mother and she would give me what I liked. Under no circumstances was I to utter the “Y” word (yucky). My parents were never in the habit of cursing anyone, but Oscar the Grouch was an exception.
A couple of my kids take after me. When my son was two, we could hardly get him to eat anything healthy. One evening, my husband threw the lunch meat, package and all, on his high chair tray.
“Here, eat this for the rest of your life”, he barked.
It’s frustrating, but I grew out of it and so did my son. I now enjoy all vegetables, in reasonable quantities, even brussel sprouts. I don’t eat any kind of seafood, because it doesn’t taste like chicken. I do bow down to the unholy trinity of salty, sweet, and fat. I love junk food which, when I consider my creative tendencies, doesn’t make sense. I’m in awe of the beauty of nature. I enjoy viewing paintings and sculptures, admiring the artist’s vision and skill. I’m tickled and touched by the written word. Yet, what I put in my trap is, more often than not, from a cellophane bag, rather than the loving attention of human hands. It’s not attractively displayed, nor does the aroma entice me. It’s in bits and pieces, settled together or wrapped up in a large hunk. I don’t set a table and slowly savor every mouthful. I sit on the couch in a heap and mindlessly chaw on whatever item is within reach. After I start to fill ill, I crumple the bag with my greasy orange fingers and toss it to the side in disgust. I’m presently aware of how ugly that image is and wish I could develop a more refined palate. I’m just not an adventurous eater. I gingerly try things. I stick with things I like. I eat for pleasure, which is why I’m a fancy restaurant abstainer.
I avoid fancy restaurants, but not just because of the creative cuisine. The following is a slide show of me at a fine dining establishment:
1) They turn the lights down so low that I can’t see the menu, much less the face of my beloved and I have to grope for his hand. I’m sure it’s because they don’t want your eyes to deadlock on the prices and reach the conclusion that you could be out buying furniture.
2) I start to get anxious when I’ve committed the menu to memory and even with the flowery language, nothing sounds remotely appetizing. If this is the case, I’m woefully stuck between “yuck” and “I’ll starve, thanks” and I’m limited further by what I can safely pronounce. I have to stop myself from telling the waiter the truth; that he needn’t worry about me, because I’ll be hitting the nearest drive thru on the way home. I mentally twirl and point. It just doesn’t matter what I order, I probably won’t enjoy it anyway.
3) The waiter always waltzes up like he’s presenting you with an unexpected gift. He wields a glaring white plate with an island of meager lumps of grain fed, allowed to run free through the chicken shit, visible clumps of dirt so you’re sure it’s organic “food”, framed by a swirl of something that looks like nail polish and reeks of lavender and pomegranate (the “it” fruit). Most of the time, I’m trying to connect what I was sure I heard myself say to the waiter with what has now been so gracefully placed before me.
4) I find it necessary to tune my appetite to the pizza channel before the first bite to help me control my facial expressions. I gulp a pitcher of liquid (the waterslide effect) to smooth the passage of the strange morsels I have purposely chosen to choke down. I know the “two-bite brownie approach” to eating looks bad and will leave me with nothing to do, but I’m on puke patrol and setting my pie-hole on inhale is my most effective strategy.
5) While I’m chewing, I try to comfort myself with the fact that dessert may still redeem this meal that I would’ve gladly fed to the stray dog I’d hoped would trot by.
I hear my Dad’s voice in my head, “This food is fit for a king. Here King.”
6) When the cloying server returns, I put on my best “I just ate a wheel of good cheese” face.
“You must have really enjoyed that,” he says as he removes my empty plate with a sweeping motion, exposing a crop circle of chunks that are a little too big to pass for crumbs.
“Mm hmm”, I hum, stifling a gag as I force the last hideous bolus away from my horrified taste buds.
I wish I had the nerve to pass the bill, which rivals my mortgage payment, back to Eduardo and say how odd and unsatisfying it all was and that I’d like to return it with a well-placed index finger.
I’m exaggerating, but not really. My food doesn’t have to look like a still-life, though I can appreciate the art when the taste is also exquisite. I like it to be recognizable, not too chichi and full of rich, warm flavor. If it’s so scrumptious that I forget myself and my table manners, I don’t apologize. I’m a passionate woman and a passionate eater. If I’m going to chow down, it better be worth the calories and the cost. I know there are plenty of picky eaters out there to keep me company. They’re called chefs.
Complete the experience. Listen to Wierd Al Yankovic’s Eat It.
Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂