In continuing the wonderful theme of stinking my apartment up beyond belief, I just got through cooking some baby Brussels sprouts. I had never had them, and had picked up a bag of them once when there was a sale on frozen vegetables.
They look like little heads of cabbage, and they taste like if steamed broccoli decided to get serious about tasting like shit. I don’t understand who eats this stuff, I really don’t. Apparently there’s enough of a market for them to put a production line together for it.
Do parents nationwide really just hate their children that much? Because that’s the only reason I can think of for this crap to be considered food, is to punish your children. Like if you just need to have a vegetable that they hate, so you can force them to eat it before they can go play.
When I was a kid, my dad always made me eat everything on my plate. I know that you have to teach your children not to waste, so in theory, there might be something to this whole, “eat what you take,” idea. But the thing is, we didn’t get to pick what we put on our plate. He ran a restaurant for a while, so what we ate for supper was the daily special. Occasionally, we could order something else, but for the most part, that’s what we had.
I was exempt if fish was the special, because seafood makes me projectile vomit.
Anything else, though, I had to eat. One summer, we went in for lunch. I think the special was meatloaf, but I can’t be sure about that. What I can be sure of is that the side dish was spinach. Boiled spinach. It was served in a little bowl, and I took my first bite and gagged.
It was the texture, see. I mean, I was no big fan of the taste, but that was small potatoes compared to the texture, and the imagery my brain conjured up to go with said texture.
Pretty much anyone who exercises their imagination as much as I do will tell you that one of the major downsides is that that shit will turn around and bite your ass once in a while.
The second I put that soggy spinach in my mouth, my brain goes, monster tongues, that’s what this feels like. As you might imagine, I was done eating the spinach right then.
My dad didn’t think so.
I ate all of my food, and then I asked to be excused. Request denied. “Not until you eat that spinach.” Shit.
It was a small town restaurant—the only restaurant in town, at the time—and the locals made a big deal out of coming in for coffee. It was part of their daily routine, these farmers and truckers. The came in before daybreak, then around noon, then again in the evening.
Some of these guys were in eating lunch when I sat down, and they joked with me while they ate about how that spinach wasn’t going to eat itself. When they came in for their coffee break around three that afternoon, it didn’t seem so funny to see me sitting there with my bowl of cold, soggy spinach.
By this time, I had tried anything and everything to make it edible—salt, pepper, vinegar, butter. Nothing worked, of course, because boiled spinach is boiled spinach, and no matter what you put on it, it’s still going to have the consistency and texture of limp monster tongues. Or seaweed. Or whatever. The shit’s disgusting, and there’s not anything you can do to make it not disgusting.
“Come on,” one of the guys said to my dad, “Let the boy go—it’s summer vacation, and he’s wasting it in here.” My dad got really pissed off and defensive, told the guy don’t tell me how to raise my kid. Then he moved me into the unused section of the restaurant, where none of the customers could see me.
I sat there another three hours, until the regulars starting pouring back in for their evening meal and evening coffee. I convinced my dad to let me go back out and sit with them. By this time, the spinach had been microwaved three times, and I still hadn’t eaten any more than that first bite. The coffee drinkers cheered as I walked out with my bowl of spinach. I took my seat, and they all started giving me advice.
Salt, pepper, vinegar, butter? Yep, yep, yep, yep. Tried it all, none of it worked, damn, that’s a real shame, kid. I’d eat it for you, but that shit makes me puke. All of them were in agreement as far as that went—boiled spinach is disgusting shit that’s good for one thing, and that one thing is making you puke.
My dad came out from the kitchen and said, “I want that gone by the end of the dinner rush. Just close your eyes, hold your nose, and eat it.”
He didn’t understand the problem, and I didn’t have the words to explain it. He went back to the kitchen. There was this guy sitting beside me, his name was Davey Jones (I don’t know if that was his real name, but I was always led to believe that it was). I believe he was a pig farmer, but I could be wrong about that.
He waited until my dad was back in the kitchen, and then he drank down his coffee until it was almost gone. Then he picked up my bowl of spinach, dumped it into his cup, and put the bowl back in front of me. He stood up, and dropped me a wink.
“Thanks, Davey,” I said, relief washing over me.
“For what?” He said, shrugging, and then he went and paid his bill and left. The waitress took his cup, and I kept waiting for my dad to storm out with the spinach in his hand, dripping coffee, vinegar, all that shit, and yelling that I was going to finish this spinach.
He didn’t, though. The dishwasher dumped out the coffee cup without a second thought, and when my dad came out and saw the empty bowl, he wasn’t suspicious.
“How’d you end up doing it?”
“Like you said. Just held my nose and did it.”
“See? Don’t you wish you would have done that at the very first?”
I had a boss once, and I asked him if he had that rule, about making your kid eat everything on their plate. “I make her try everything,” he told me.
“Yeah, but I mean, say you dish her up a plate. Do you make her eat everything before she can leave the table?”
“Nah. You do that, you end up with a fat kid that doesn’t like you.”
I’m not saying I don’t like my dad, but I really doubt he would have liked to hear my opinion of him after sitting with that bowl of spinach for six hours.
While I was writing this, my princess got back home. The smell from the burned turkey bacon was gone, thank goodness, and the reek from the Brussels sprouts was sucked up in the vent over the stove.
“You cleaned,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said, and explained the the turkey bacon incident. “By the way, I made those Brussels sprouts things that were in the freezer.”
“You don’t like them?” I asked her.
“Nobody likes them,” she said with disgust. “When I was little, I was at this camp, and they told me that if I didn’t eat mine, I wouldn’t get any ice cream. I just sat there until they finally realized that I wasn’t going to touch them, no matter what.”
“No ice cream?”
“No ice cream. And I love ice cream.”
She’s a petite little thing that can eat pretty much whatever she wants and still look great. In fact, since moving down to Texas, she’s gained a little weight, and just looks more smokin’ hot than ever. And I’m not just saying that for brownie points—she doesn’t ever even visit this place.
She gets to have ice cream while I get to have salads.
“I had never had them before—they really taste like shit.”
“What did you eat?” She asked.
“Salad. Put some chicken on top.”
“We had lettuce?”
“Little bit. I used that other stuff.”
“Yeah.” Because, ironically, while writing about how I once sat in front of a bowl of spinach for six hours, I got up and made a salad out of fresh spinach leaves, red peppers, carrots, onions soaked in vinegar, and chicken breast. And it was delicious.
“I thought you had a thing with spinach,” my princess said.
“Yeah. I can’t eat it if it’s cooked. Raw and crispy, it’s fine.”
“Good for you,” she said, and walked to the bedroom. I looked at the pot full of nastiness. Shame to waste it, what with me eating only three or four of the little things. I lifted the cover, and was instantly assaulted by the stench of them.
I dumped them out with a grin on my face, because life is too short to do things that make you miserable, and it’s nice to be grown-up enough that I can pick and choose which of my parents’ life lessons to respect.
“Don’t waste your food” be damned.