Friday, September 9, 2011

Freud Chicken

     I’ll admit it: I’m a foodie.  A dyed-in-the-wool, totally engrossed, completely immersed foodie.  I love everything there is about food, cooking, and the culture of eating.    There is nothing like the thrill of a perfectly executed roulade or helping a stranger in a grocery store understand that avocados, aspic, and artichokes are not even remotely related.  It made me a nerd in high school and college, though.  While all my friends were learning the facts of life in the basement of a fraternity house, my dateless self was at the library reading everything I could find on cuts of meat and the secrets to perfectly flaky pastry.  It was my hobby, my passion, and I thought everyone liked to eat. 

     I should have known better.

     It’s nice to be known as the “food guru” in your own social circle, but the fun is somewhat diminished when you are alone in your excitement.  Take The Yankee’s dad for instance.  Harmon is the opposite of a foodie.  Of the nine foods in our solar system that do not send him to the men’s room for two hours at a time, there are at least eight of them that he prefers to be absolutely ruined beyond repair (burned, dried out, overcooked, etc.).  He and my mother-in-law, Ursula, came to visit before Buttercup was born.  Having grown up in a household where extravagant hospitality was heaped upon every guest, I was eager to show Harmon and Ursula the highlights of our little spot in the South East USA.  Taking our meager newlywed purse, we showed them the local sites and restaurants.  Not only did Harmon refuse to go anywhere that didn’t have a men’s room strategically located every 10 feet, he insisted we take him to restaurants willing to serve a cheeseburger at all times.  This cheeseburger must be cooked for at least 45 minutes so that any trace of flavor, moistness, or recognizable texture would be a dim memory by the time it reached his plate.  The burger, now in its hockey-puck glory, must be coated in American cheese: the cheaper, greasier, and more yellow, the better.  Condiments would be limited to mayonnaise and mayonnaise alone, thank you, and if you DARED introduce a gaseous, revolting vegetable on his burger, his plate, or the real estate bordering his plate, he would retreat immediately to the port-a-potty we stole from a construction site and tied to the back of the car. 
     I decided I didn’t like Harmon.  Not one bit.

     Maybe Ursula would be a better companion.  After all, she seemed the type who might enjoy the subtle nuances of resin-y rosemary present in the perfectly al dente Chanterelle Risotto.  WRONG.  Ursula disliked all spices, flavors, and … well … food in general.  She gagged at the mention of pork, declared our tap water “too spicy”, and snarled her lip at the horror of a freezer devoid of frozen macaroni and cheese (which she pronounced “chee-see mee-yack”).  No meal I could prepare, no restaurant I could take them to would satisfy Ursula’s underwhelming palate.  When I excitedly presented a dinner of The Yankee’s favorite fried chicken, Harmon cut into his chosen portion and threw his fork across the room.  “This chicken has WATER in it!” he cried.  “There’s no water, Harm.  I assure you it is just the natural juices of the chicken because I didn’t overcook it.”  As he packed his bags, Ursula hastily chewing an antacid thanks to my “spicy” tossed salad, he continued to rant.  “Chicken is supposed to be CHEWY!  It’s supposed to be crunchy to the bone and you put WATER IN IT!!”  Ursula popped another antacid, “And you don’t even have chee-see mee-yack in your freezer!”  They slammed the door, squalled tires out of the driveway, and never looked back. 

      That was 10 years ago, and we haven’t heard from them since.

      I learned a lot about food that weekend.  Food is more than the substance we ingest for the purposes of physical survival.  If that were the case, science could have invented a replacement pill a long time ago.  It is the substance of tradition, the pathway to bonding, the litmus test of a relationship.  Were Harmon and Ursula generally disagreeable in other aspects of life?  Absolutely, but their ungrateful attitudes, their hateful xenophobia, their outright disdain for adventure was never more evident than it was at the table.  I guess that’s the other side of being a foodie that attracts me; foodies are often amateur psychologists.  We can tell a lot about people by their habits.  The control freaks who have to have even numbers of ice cubes in their glasses.  The daring lovers of life who will try the hot sauce with the devil on the front of the bottle just for the fun of it.  The kind soft-hearts who generously compliment whatever you put in front of them out of sheer gratitude for the effort.  It’s an interesting perch being a foodie, and I love every second of it.  But not as much as I loved sending a port-a-potty coffee mug to Harmon for Christmas. 

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

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