I am a picky eater. I fully admit, 100%, that I am very selective when it comes to foods that cross my lips. If you want to eat it, that’s fine with me but just don’t expect me to dive in as well. As I got older, I realized most of my squeamishness came from texture, especially when it comes to meat. I have yet to find a way to mask the unpleasantness of gristle or fat. Give me any vegetable known to humankind, with the exception of eggplant, and I’m good to go. And I’m also okay with admitting that sometimes my displeasure does not make any sense to others, only to me.
This is why I prefer to do most of the cooking in our house. I know I’ve trimmed all the fat off of the chicken breast, along with that thin strip of whatever it is that runs down the middle. I know I remember to remove the casings from the sausage before I use it. I know my bacon will be so crisp, without one ounce of chewy, that if it happens to fall on the floor, it will shatter into many pieces. I know each slice of beef for the stir-fry will not have a bit of fat on it. I know the skin is removed from the chicken, with the exception of the legs (for sk) before it’s roasted. I know all the visible fat is trimmed from around the pork chops. You get the idea.
I can’t remember the last time I ate steak because of that marbling thing. I realize that’s where the flavor is but I also know, that I had better not get a piece of fat, otherwise I will stop eating the meat and focus all my attention on the vegetables. Fish? Fish is good . . .unless that salmon has a lot of that fish fat, then I have to scrape that off or if that fish comes as the entire fish, you know with the eyes and fins still on. That I have a problem with. Same with lobster, especially lobsters, because they have those long antennae.
Sk knows all of this and still loves me. The first time we went out, we met for lunch one day at a Thai restaurant. I ordered the curry coconut milk based soup and a side of rice, which I put in the soup for a full meal. When our food arrived, I realized I forgot to ask for the soup without chicken. So there we were making small talk, sk sitting opposite me as she ate her food all the while patiently watching me scoop out every single piece or bit of chicken I could find and place it on my saucer. She knew what she was getting into.
That’s just one side of my pickyness, there are more, oh yes, there are others. Cleanliness is a big one. This one applies to all food in general. Another is knowing where the meat comes from. Is that chicken free range? Is that beef from a grass-fed cow? Are the animals drug free? Are fillers and/or dyes used in the ground meat? Thanks to this, I only feel comfortable buying meat from local producers at our local farmer markets.
I bring all this up because last Thursday being American Thanksgiving included an invitation to a celebratory dinner. Sk and I always have holiday dinners in our house or we provide most of the food where we are attending, usually hosted by a family member that is not known for their cooking ability so they will ask us to bring most of the meal. This being Canada, last Thursday was not a holiday but we were invited by a fellow imported American for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
First, let me just say that we had a great time. This was our minister’s family and we are honored that they invited us into their home to celebrate with them. The food was delicious and truly impressive. I mean, how many dinners have you attended in which rutabagas are on the menu? Not too many I’m assuming.
The gravy was finished and placed on the table. The whole family, plus sk and I, were called to the dining room. We joined hands and sang grace, yes, they in fact sang a song of grace. It was short so all was good. I was ready to dig in but didn’t want to be rude so I waited until someone else started dipping into the dishes of food. And then, a horror like no other occurred. The leader at the table, the Mom, picked up her plate. She plopped a spoonful of sweet potato casserole on the plate then passed her plate to the person on her left. Her husband, who was seated to my left, handed her another plate. She did the same with that one and she was quickly moving on to her third plate. What was happening? Instead of passing the food around the table, this family passed around the plates. I watched my plate, as if in slow motion, was lifted from it’s rightful place directly in front of me and then time sped up as it was whisked around the table, manhandled by each and every person.
I quickly lost track of which plate was mine. Rutabagas were being heaped onto each plate as it passed through the hands of the oldest boy. The grandmother kept herself busy by loading each one with green beans. The youngest child and his friend helped to pile turkey on each passing plate. Sk and I watched as each plate was filled to the brim with yummy goodness. I kept looking around, trying desperately to inform the others of my food wishes, all to no avail. I stared down at a full plate put down in front of me. It wasn’t mine, it couldn’t be mine. Never in my life would I have compiled my plate in such a haphazard manner. Food items that shouldn’t be touching one another were in fact overlapping. There was way too much, too much of everything. No one had heard me request small servings. And there was turkey. No one heard me say no turkey.
I had no time to worry about the cleanliness of the kitchen or where the turkey came from. Antibiotics be damned! I ate it all, and it was good! I had no room for dessert which I figured would happen due to the enormous portions heaped onto the plate so I reserved my sweet potato casserole for last. When I had finished, not a morsel was left. That evening I enjoyed a holiday meal. One in which I paid attention to the people, the love, the conversation shared around the table. For a few minutes, I was free from my food concerns and I could focus on what truly makes Thanksgiving a holiday.