Thursday, October 1, 2015

Food equals love

My wife proved that she loved me the other day. She brought me a bag of wasabi flavored almonds. By itself, it doesn't not sound like proof of her undying love for me, but it is.

She will not eat these almonds. To me, this is a sign of love. Then again, I do have food issues.

The blame for all of my food issues can be placed firmly on my childhood. I am the oldest of eight kids. You know what you call a group of eight kids? Locust. We were like a Biblical plague if you were crazy enough to let us loose in a room with an unlocked fridge and well-stocked cupboards. The problem was that we were always straving.

Don't get me wrong---my parents did their best to keep us clothed and fed. My father often worked too jobs while Mom stayed home to watch us. Well, my father worked while my mom made me stay home and watch my siblings. Except when my dad would drag me off to work to learn a trade.

The happiest trade that he dragged me off to learn was how to sell and deliver produce. I was rail thin from the lack of food. At home, sneaking a banana was a capital crime. At the produce warehouse, it was spoilage. Plus every cook and chef along the delivery route would feed me. To this day, I willing eat any food offered to me by the staff of a kitchen. My decision to be a journalist and novelist merely re-enforced my tendency to gravitate towards unguarded food. If I am ever assassinated, it will be with a plate of Swedish Meatballs.

It was on the produce route that I learned an important lesson---if you want to survive, be willing to eat stuff that other people will not touch. At home, I was expected to be polite, and allow my siblings to eat. Nearly always I would be forced to have a smaller portion than I would like. It wasn't that my mom was a wonderful cook---an one armed monkey without taste buds can whip up a better dish than my mom--it was simply that there was never enough food.

Occasionally, some politician will state that the government should quit funding reduced and free school lunch and breakfast programs. Or they will insist that only drug abusers are on welfare and government aid programs. I imagine that they also believe that I should not be stuffing their poppets with stale peanuts and throwing them out to the squirrels. It is seriously doubtful that we will ever see eye to eye on those important issues, but I won't vote for them as long as they don't vote for me either.

It is not just politicians that I hate. My oldest sister knows that I don't like her. Not one damn bit. Her proof of this is that I like licorice. At a certain point, I realized that when given a chance to pick the candy, none of my siblings would eat licorice. Initially, I thought it tasted nasty, but I got all of it. It is amazing how bad food is so much better than no food at all. Today, I actually like licorice---it is an acquired taste, just like eating strange animals.

There are times that I wonder if my working in restaurants for twenty years was related to the lack of food I experienced as a kid. Or the fact that I was willing to take over all the cooking a couple of years ago. After all, such decisions are never affected by the lack of a high school diploma, or the fact that you can taste how much my wife likes to cook. If you want to make sure you get enough to eat, control the food that comes out of the kitchen.

My wife also has food issues. Colorful food, fresh food, food with flavor---she will not touch any of them. She will eat canned green beans, but not fresh ones. Beets, squash, salad---all off the list. To top off the list of things she will not touch, add an item that she can't touch--wheat. After several years, I am still trying to figure out how to cook gluten free.

One of the signs that I love her is that I actually try to cook around her dietary needs. And that I am willing to let her have seconds, or the leftovers if she needs them for lunch. My childhood programming says that she is more important than I am, therefore she gets first dubs on the food.

So her buying me a bag of food that she will not touch, that is all mine, that is pure love.

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