Assorted Memories (Involving Food)
Around age 12, I poured rice down the sink for some reason. My parents are upset because there’s no garbage disposal. I suggest running water down the sink. They say that water doesn’t dissolve rice. They are stumped & irritated when I say, “Then why is water called the ‘universal solvent’?”
I’m 7. We’re at a restaurant with my uncle, aunt and cousins and my family. We place our order. An eternity and a half later, we still have no food. My dad inquires about our order. It turns out that our waiter has quit his job. He quit right after taking our order. I feel a little guilty because it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t us who pushed him over the edge.
My grandparents take me out to brunch one Sunday at their favorite restaurant. The restaurant also happens to be where I work as a busboy at my first job, so I know all the staff there. Typical of a 14 year-old, I'm a little embarrassed to be seen out with my grandparents. It’s weird having my coworkers serve me. To make it even weirder, my grandfather throws up all over the table after brunch.
At age 25, I’m working as a waiter in a restaurant while I’m attending EMT school. I’m not very good at it. One of my tables is a single diner, an Asian woman. I try to keep all my other tables going and totally forget about this woman, and I leave her with a dirty plate in front of her for about 45 minutes. I apologize and bring her the check. She still leaves me a decent tip, and I’m fascinated that she signed her name on her credit card slip in Chinese characters. I show her signature to all the other waiters. They don’t care.
I’m in New York City for a vacation about 6 years ago. In Greenwich Village, I pass Anthony Bourdain hailing a cab. I’ve just read his book. I don’t say anything, but nod to him in such a way that I hope it conveys “Dude, you’re my favorite chef/author/TV host ever. Thanks for being awesome.”
On my wedding honeymoon, my new bride wants to impress me with her cooking. She makes what she calls a strawberry cheesecake. Instead of topping the cheesecake with strawberry stuff, she’s mixed a pack of strawberry Jello into the cheesecake filling. It is the color of Pepto-Bismol with radiation poisoning. I call it Plutonium Pink. She comments on the spaghetti and meatballs that I made; that she’s never had a meatball the size of a grapefruit. Touché.
Ten years ago, my mother-in-law served me a dish that she refused to name. It was some kind of meat pie, with two kinds of meat. She asked if I like it. I said I did, especially these bits of meat, which I point out. She says it is steak and kidney pie, and the meat I particularly like is kidney. Until then, organ meat grossed me out. I ask for seconds.
In Greece, my friend Mike and I sit down in a restaurant. It’s difficult reading Greek, so instead of trying to translate the menu, we ask the waiter to bring us something local, that he might like. We expect some souvlaki or lamb or grape leaves. Instead he brings us a huge platter with a large cooked octopus in some sort of spicy red sauce. It is delicious. We eat all of it.
When we were little, my sister Erin used to put A-1 steak sauce on everything. I watched her pour A-1 onto celery sticks and eat them. I tried it. It tasted like A-1 on celery.
Somehow, my wife and I start discussing pickles. I say something about the cucumbers that are made into pickles. She refuses to believe that pickles are made from cucumbers. I am bewildered that she doesn’t know this basic fact and sarcastically ask, “Where did you think they come from? The pickle bush?” She still refuses to believe me. Later at the grocery I point out to her the ingredient list on a jar of pickles. That was a bad idea.