DIETARY DIVA

The waitress said I’ve started a new trend. I took the normally cold California crab roll and had the chef add those cute little fluted cucumbers along with spicy mayo and ripe mangos. I also wanted them warmed then drizzled with a large pond size amount of eel sauce. I might point out that a big juicy apple is far more delicious after they’ve been dipped in melted Harry & David sea salt caramels and covered with peanuts. Not just any apples and peanuts. Honeycrisp with roasted almonds. But my boyfriend makes fun of me. He often conveys that I can’t just order something simple, I have to make adjustments to almost every food item I intend on consuming. Need I remind him that the sensitivity of my taste buds and making slight modifications is a very large part of my happiness.

I grew up a picky eater. Except when I sat down to our table of twelve grabbing anything I could to stay alive once the sibling vultures swarmed in. Which may have resulted in a death camp for cuties. If we didn’t like something, I remember my mother’s stern expressions when she tried reasoning with her fussie foodies. Yet I quickly figured out how to crucify Brussels sprouts. Or at least our dog did. It was that, or watch me gag on green balls. Neurologically speaking, that’s why today I need to be downing lots of iron, fiber, and folate. My lips never did launch forth for liver. I was eventually instilled with a love of pickles and ice cream through veritable prenatal proximity.

Mama never provided us with a children’s menu. For breakfast, she toasted my bread and buttered it using non-melting margarine. She could have at least blindfolded me before lathering the lard, or done it in a closet where I couldn’t watch her. I wanted the taste of real butter at a very young age and needed to lubricate my arteries, not harden them. What was worse is that she never topped that toast with Hershey’s syrup or Pez candies. My tummy trusted them far more than what oleo chemists created. The increasing consumption of pig fat will eventually impact how much the earth can hold and just might affect its rotation. Mom also ratified the cockamamie concept that I liked dry toast when serving it to me when I was sick. I decided that only popsicles were suitable for consumption. Everything else was pre-tested by my teddy bear then thrown to the floor. If spit out unsweetened fruit drinks had been floor wax, then we had the shiniest tiles in town.

My sustentative annoyances continued. If I saw strings on bananas, I’d go berserk, then beg for grapes. But they could never have pits, plus I liked them accompanying cheese. Only American cheese. From there I turned into the tender age of a teen dictatorial negotiator. I felt my only means of physical endurance was through pizza. I didn’t get second meals made for me after refusing veal cutlets and broccoli with hollandaise. Mom sometimes threw together English muffins with tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. I would have wholeheartedly loved it and eaten it if she cleared off every bit of sauce and pepperoni. And those meatless Friday’s made me crazy. I recoiled in disgust having to stomach tuna casseroles with crushed potato chips. It was part of my job description to complain and pose as a food allergist. Being the roguish protester that I was, I’m sure my parents thought I would end up as a major counterterrorist for the Mossad. By age seventeen, they put enough expensive metal in my mouth to anchor a navy ship. I’m sure that’s why they called it ‘precious metal’. They probably figured that I wouldn’t get married and give them grandbabies with buck teeth. But it was hard eating with braces and head gear. I insisted on milkshakes, but mom insisted on pureed peas. I eventually took the ingenious route to sanity and survival. I drank a lot more dinners once I discovered distilled beverages.

Now that I’m grown, the love of butter has led me to use subliminal messaging when dining with friends in their homes. Right before eating, I get into the kneeling position and pose as the Land-O-Lakes girl pretending to churn cream. I figured if the hostess doesn’t heed the obvious message that I require real butter, she probably wouldn’t be very spiffy at playing Charades either. Although I must admit, butter or no butter, I hate to miss a meal. I do need to lighten up my dairy load though before my belly gets to be the size of Bangkok. God knows that standing heavy on a scale can trigger emotional problems and earthquakes.

One basic axiom of dietary Queenism involves secretly choreographing my movements when I’m taking bacteria ridden lime rinds out of my martinis. And who is going to arrest me for assault with a deadly fork when I’m spearing every pearl onion that are mixed with my peas? Before my beau browbeats me into total shame for breaking those no substitution rules in restaurants, I need to emphasize that I may only have a few more minutes to live so I should get what I want. Like he himself says unceasingly, “I could drop at any minute.” Besides, both of us tend to get a little finicky the times we’re not wearing our glasses. It’s simply impossible distinguishing what’s on our plates when seeing is roughly equivalent to having Helen Keller feel her food for authenticity and superbness.

I like to tell my loverboy that should he ever venture to elitist cities like LA or New York, babes there are far more picky than I am.

MOM ALWAYS LIKED ME LEAST

Everyone knows by now that I come from a family of very familiar faces since there were twelve of us jammed into seventeen hundred square feet of communal living. Not to mention cousins and friends who made appearances. Thunder only happens when it’s raining relatives and rambunctious outsiders. Few know this, but before my Mother Hubbard was an old woman living in a shoe box fetching her munchkins chow, she was a fourteenth century Indian princess. I know because I resided with tribal life forms who continued to specialize in warfare and I too waited for storms to pass.

Mom must have liked me the least when she started confusing me for the nanny we didn’t have, giving me the privilege of babysitting, tot sitting, adolescent sitting, pet sitting, and sitting for whoever was over at the time. There was an increase in atmospheric pressure when up against tail winds of romping stomping siblings. They took all the fun out of my sitting around eating Oreos in peace and quiet while watching anything on television that I wasn’t normally allowed to watch. I couldn’t even enjoy Oreos, or food period. Not with ravenous youngsters around who were diminishing pantry and refrigerator contents. One time they ate all the ice cream. I screamed, they screamed, we all screamed and the police came. It was awkward. Next to the circus, there wasn’t anything that generated excitement quite like being entrusted with hungry clowns and animals when my mother was gone and having the cops show up. Mom taught me that a woman has to become an expert delegator and ringmaster, but every performance skill requires some potent form of pandemonium relief. Now I see why.

God must have created toilets more specifically for the times a younger brother decides to wash cast iron cookware. I guess it beat looking at Highlights magazine or being entertained by Sesame Street. Though God did not take into consideration the steady stream of water that follows a tank breakage. He should have also constructed a dam to prevent the marshy liquid from colliding with the carpeting and wood floors. Then I freaked out when my baby brother pulled the toilet paper all the way into the garage, thus sat there eating it. I cleaned his mouth out while our sister shoved pennies into her kisser. By the time another sibling filled his jaw with jelly beans, I figured it was probably unnecessary to feed any of them lunch. When I did pump out sandwiches, you would have thought I was repetitively competing with an assembly linewoman at a food processing plant.

My sister, miss enchanted with antenna’d electronics, decided to rise and shine long enough to turn on her favorite form of telly amusement while our youngest sister finger painted the walls, pedicured her stuffed animals, pranced around naked wearing nothing but oven mitts and Mom’s favorite high heels, called Venezuela, finished the Times crossword puzzle with Crayolas, and was still bored stiff. I have long felt that I was never meant to be domesticated. Don’t get me wrong. I love kids as long as they are cute and still cooing. Babysitting my siblings was pure preparation for motherhood. It’s a wonder I ever had children myself and didn’t limit my tender care to a pint sized Yorkie with castrated vocal chords. I would have been better off putting the kids in our pet cages and letting the pets run free.

Day care duties were almost always interrupted by bell-ringing sales people, but my parents told me never answer the door to strangers. Solicitors really risked their lives if my two older brothers were anywhere in the vicinity with sling shots aimed at icicles that lined our front sidewalk. Mom arrived home just in time to fall on broken frozen crystals, and to see a snowman wearing her scarf and expensive pearls, one of her offspring with a self barbered butcher job, and another kid coaxing a fat wad of chewed gum from the bathroom faucet. My teens were smarter than that. They used their allowance to go to a beauty salon to get fantastic asymmetrical shaved hairdos with purple highlights. I didn’t want to indoctrinate my own children into a system that doesn’t value creative expression or discourages their competence. So I had to stop allowances, and I never bought them gum.

It was hard keeping track of so many characters in my mother’s absence. The minute she got home she asked, “Where are all your sisters and brothers?” I recall crossing off the childcare checklist by telling her, “Well, let me see. The last time I looked, Eddie Munster and Pugsley Addams were outside digging Marsha Brady out of piled snow. Cindy Brady is blowing polish dry on toy toes. Opie Taylor was pulling popcorn out from under the couch cushions and storing them in his sock, which made me wonder if he was really a squirrel. Gidget has her boyfriend over in the bedroom. Hopefully Will Robinson isn’t under any impending danger of drowning. He went to the hockey rink and has been warned about falling through thin ice. Dennis the Menace is being very sportsmanlike playing darts with Lassie. Although I left him the board and took away the small steel missiles for safekeeping. And right before Huck Finn was sucking gum from the faucet with the vacuum cleaner, he was having a private moment in the tropics, heating up the place by playing with matches. Not to worry though. I called the fire department and urged them to be on standby.”

It’s funny how Mom’s eyeroll was so similar to those of my siblings. The hardest parts of babysitting was having her criticize my temporary custody capabilities, and lying down next to the dog explaining why I wasn’t his biological babysitter.