My hunger is deep but not wide.
That is to say I can partake with great relish when my appetite is with me, but it seldom is. Or rather it is only under a fairly fussy set of circumstances, a fact which causes me some consternation when I'm removed from my ideal element and expected to feed myself anyway.
I know it runs against the social grain on a fundamental level but the truth is that I prefer to dine alone. I don't want to talk to you, but if I have to I will, as long as I don't have to sit too nearby. I'm not one of those people too self-conscious to eat by myself in a restaurant -- it's my 'druthers. I enjoy a quiet booth with a view of the street, a good book propped open by the salt shaker while I pick over my feed.
This is why the dining room in the Old Schoolhouse is so clean: it is seldom used. It is my preference to sit on the floor. When we have company I do my best to dawdle in the kitchen so that I'm the last one to find a seat, increasing my chances of scoring a chair shoved to the periphery or even being obliged to sit apart from the guests entirely. If neither of these objectives can be attained I would rather delay eating until later.
Nothing is worse than being seated early in the game and then being hemmed in by other people, elbow to elbow, communally chomping like pigs at their trough. In such cases I sometimes have to sit beside somebody who's gross, which compounds the problem geometrically. That's people who chew loudly or with a high level of in-mouth food visibility, people who breathe funny when they drink, or people who just sit too close. When this happens I find excuses to jump up to fetch things or re-fill somebody's something in order to pass the time while the others maw.
I enjoy many different kinds of food, but only when the weather's right. This causes my wife some frustration. "Would you like some yogurt?"
"No thank you."
"But yesterday you couldn't get enough yogurt."
"Yeah, but that was Tuesday. Today is Wednesday. I can't abide yogurt today. I'd barf."
So, naturally, the most vexing part of my new full-time job is getting lunch into me. I eat at my desk rather than in any of the kitchens, which makes things easier, but deciding in the morning what I might be willing to eat five or six hours in the future is a game of divination suitable for Nostradamus. I'm as often wrong as I am right when I guess that I might enjoy a really tasty sandwich or some flavour of soup or a chunk of re-heated yesterday's dinner. Results are no better than random.
I tend to fall back on fruit. I can almost always eat fruit. Yesterday, for example, my lunch consisted of a clone banana, a Grannysmith apple, a tupperware disc of mixed blueberries and green grapes, and an individual serving of peach yogurt. My granola bar -- an item I've been consuming with delight for weeks -- was left untouched as the thought of eating it made me ill.
At work I only drink water, as anything else may give me a bellyache if I'm feeling wrong about it when it goes in, even if it's tasty.
The last time I was traveling in Europe and fresh fruit was hard (or expensive) to come by, I opted to eat jars of baby food. You know -- fruits or vegetables or pasta mashed into a liquidy pulp. When I was feeling particularly peckish I mixed it up a bit by munching on a cracker (I prefer saltines eaten salt-side down for optimal tongue contact). In order to keep myself sufficiently fueled for fun it was necessary to feed on these tiny portions almost continuously, thus giving the Scadinavians the impression that Canadians have no teeth. The Swedes make a killer strained pear. Ask anyone.
In the Baltics I ate only bread with butter. When I tried to fly home a stern man at the airport took away my knife, so I had to gnaw on the bread dry during the flight home. I was not bitter. I appreciate the importance of stopping hot-for-Allah Irhabim from spreading the West to death as much as the next man.
"Will I get my knife back on the other end?"
When I attended my brother's wedding at an all-inclusive resort in Quintana Roo I ate only bacon. For a week. It was the only thing my body told me was edible at the buffet. I knew my body was wrong but I wasn't willing to get into a fight over it.
My body is stupid. I have a terribly unkeen sense of smell and I think this has something to do with my odd choices. It isn't that I can't smell things, I just can't identify them very well. I'll say to my wife, "What's that smell? It smells like old socks."
"That's a bakery, honey."
"Ah...yes. Now I have it. Fresh bread. Yum!"
My body is convinced that the smell of seafood -- the smell that makes people salivate and say "I want some of that!" -- is a sign of spoil. I am able to sample only small morsels of seafood dishes before my body's conviction that I'm eating something that has turned becomes overwhelming. My idiotic somatic hardware can't shake the notion that fish are rotten, even when they taste good.
I like all tomato-based products but cannot tolerate eating an actual tomato.
I love spicy Indian food, Middle Eastern mushes of various stripes, African rice, wild game, Chinese anyting that isn't seafood, Japanese anything that isn't seafood, picante Caribbean patties, all sorts of non-fish pastas, all sorts of dead animals, vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds and breads, Thai food, salty Jewish chicken and sweet wine, hot Mexican salsas, eggs, dumplings, wraps, rolls, pockets, broths, gravies and jams.
I do not, however, love any of these things with any kind of consistency. Any of them are subject to a brief but intense repulsion without warning.
During a cross-continental road-trip with friends I came to the point where my distrust of restaurants with off-putting menus and my malaise at eating elbow to elbow with my mates each day caused me to admit nothing but cheeseburgers. "What should we eat?" my friend Plaid would ask.
"Cheeseburger!" I'd cry, quickly a familiar refrain.
Though I hadn't indulged in a cheeseburger in years, cheeseburgers became lodged in my mind as the sole thing worth consuming between home and the Pacific. Frequent mention of cheeseburgers led to everyone having cheeseburgers on the mind and soon enough we were all eating cheeseburgers no matter where we went. I have partaken of cheeseburgers in nearly every province of confederation, including several places which each claimed to have originally originated the famous Banquet Burger (all of whom were lying). I even ate a Mennonite cheeseburger, which was overcooked and bundled in lettuce like baby Moses.
(In fact, my obsession came to such a head that the word itself became my Internet moniker after that trip.)
I was under no illusion that cheeseburgers are the most delicious food there is, or even that cheeseburgers are among the harder items on a typical menu to screw up, but simply bowing to the fact that the idea of cheeseburger was making me hungry.
Maybe that's part of it -- when my idea of food and the actual product diverge too dramatically, I lose my appetite. The cartoonish archetypes of various foods in my mind may be somehow badly turned out.
Food frequently annoys me. I have things I'd rather be doing than dealing with eating. I use both my hands a lot, and hate it when one of them is handicapped by sauce or sticky. I'd rather deal with feeling hungry than deal with feeling nauseated by stuffing something in against my tummy's will.
Restaurants put too much on the plate. I order appetizers instead of meals when I can. I become irritable with waitstaff who will not be dismissed with a "I haven't much appetite today" excuse and instead pester me to give up what was wrong with the dish as prepared. "It's Thursday, okay? Fuck off."
In the United States the portions are double and sometimes even triple the size. I can barely dent them even when I'm ravenous. Also, since the staff down there are given electric shocks on their nipples if they're not supernaturally cheerful! all the time they tend to be really pushy/concerned over my appetite. On these occasions I wish I could release mustard gas in twin jets from my nostrils.
I hate going over to people's houses if they're the sort who sulk if you don't lick the plate. I want to tell them I have a disease or something so they'll leave me alone.
Italian weddings represent a special kind of trial for me.
In my briefcase I keep an emergency survival pack of edibles: granola, raisins, pepperonni sticks, gelatin candies. You never know when an eating situation might turn retarded, but you need fuel anyway. Or, at least, I never know.
I wish I did not need to spend so much thought for food.
Posted by Cheeseburger Brown at 09:09