Some of my food issues are now legendary round these parts: The no fruit in my cake thing. The tuna fish makes me gag thing (as yet another poor PR person pitching me tuna fish learned yesterday). The no milk in my cereal thing. Though I suppose if I were stranded on a desert island with only boxes of pineapple cake and bowls of milky Lucky Charms, I would somehow manage to make do.
But the biggest challenge I’ve always had is easily food that looks at back at you while you eat it. No whole fish, no crabs with their little beady black eyes daring me to eat them, no giant pig heads roasting on a spit.
I sheepishly admit I’m one of those pathetic Amurkin types who likes to pretend my food was never alive. I prefer chicken breasts off the bone, and cured meats that bear no resemblance to anything with a face. I stopped eating wings in college when I realized that those veins? They were actual veins. Like, with blood in it. You know, veins? No clue why it took me 19 years to put the two together. I thought it was just a euphemism.
Soon after, I had a job which entailed slicing meat and draining blood. That’s how I became a vegetarian.
But really, a pseudo vegetarian. A bacon vegetarian. A bacon vegetarian who also ate Walter’s hot dogs. Because those things? Don’t look like meat. I used to joke to other vegetarians–real vegetarians–that oh, hot dogs…that’s not meat. That’s like nitrates and snouts and beaks and stuff.
Yeah, they really loved that.
(But come on! Walter’s hot dogs! The best!)
Cut to all these years later. I’m heavily back on the meat wagon and I’ve dabbled in more swimming food than I ever used to, but I still have a long way to go. Nate is teaching me to look at food differently; something we can honor and respect, and thank for giving us its life for our dining privilege. It’s kind of sad when you think about it–we want food that doesn’t seem like food. We want chicken shaped like stars, and bread that doesn’t require teeth to chew, and fruit ices the color of no fruit on this planet, unless there’s some exotic antifreeze citrus (C. Prestona) that I’m not yet aware of.
I recently asked a colleague at work who had toured a chicken farm whether it completely grossed him out. He said no, actually it made him want to go club something and drag it back to his cave and eat it with his bare hands. I have to respect that.
I want my kids to model their eating habits more after Nate’s (or Anthony Bordain’s) than mine. I want them to know that it’s okay for food to touch on the plate. And French fries aren’t a vegetable. And that those veins, yes, are veins and that’s really okay. So I’m trying hard to eat better in front of them so that they can eat better in front of me. To get out of my comfort zone so they can get out of theirs.
For now, I still can’t eat the stuff that looks back at me while it’s on my plate. But a nice lobster roll smothered in mayo on squishy bread from Brooklyn Fish Camp, with a cold pilsner and a good friend, can sure hit the spot in the summer.