Saturday, January 29, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

I've always been intrigued with the concept of picky eaters.

I was thinking about picky eaters yesterday as I was dining solo at one of my favorites, the Bamboo Garden Buffet. Tons of protein; hardly any carbs. That's my kind of food, being beef-deprived at home as we are (my husband could eat nothing but chicken every night for the rest of his life). Sometimes I just need some shrimp, pork, and most of all, beef. Mmmmm. Makes me want to revisit the place again today.

While I was dining, I was reading a little book I'd picked up from the Library entitled 'The Ultimate Personality Guide' by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum. The cover says, "Forget the shrinks. Forget the psychics. ANALYZE YOURSELF!" So....I did. Or I was, right there in that corner booth.

My particular profile declared that I was a picky eater. I laughed as I glanced at my plate....which would have been the ExMan's nightmare. Since I don't like to have to make two trips, I wedge everything onto the plate all together like one big happy family. The tastes blend pretty well, for the most part, and I don't mind. Some of you may be cringing right now, but may I remind you that this was MY lunch; not yours. So I guess the book was wrong. I'm not very picky at all.

I've always been fascinated, as I've said, at those of us that are very nit-picky about our food. When I was first married (the first time), I went to make ExMan a sandwich. I was generous with the mayo, as my mother had always been with our sandwiches. He, who unbeknownst to me was closely supervising the 'help', grabbed the spreading knife out of my hand and proceeded to re-do the masterpiece, sighing and shaking his head the for the duration.

"Like THIS," he said, lovingly yet sparingly spreading the mayonnaise. With wrinkled nose he removed the spread that had...well, spread...over the sides of the bread and made, I kid you not, the perfect square-like shape of mayo on the slice. I marvelled at such precision.

"THIS is how you spread it onto a sandwich," he declared. He let me know that he expected all of his sandwiches to be done in the same manner, from that moment on. And from that moment on, I made the sides look neat, and put a big blob of goo right smack in the middle for good measure, and he never knew the difference; he being such a fast eater, and all.

His sisters used to ask me with a giggle if I had to 'seperate' his food. The word was that when he was a child, up until about age thirteen (possibly older but they weren't going to tell me that), he had to have a special plate at all meals, to keep his food apart. He didn't like his food 'touching' each other. He understood the science of where it all went, but it was the presentation that he couldn't get past.

I found this to be rather curious. Funnier, still, that he married the girl that always mixed her peas with her mashed potatoes, poured gravy over the whole thing, stirred it up and ate it. The same girl that loved to stir up her ice cream, so that whatever was mixed in with it was even more mixed in, and it was more of a smoothie. Must be that 'Opposites Attract' deal. And how....!

Once when I was pregnant, I ordered a shrimp and pineapple pizza. The girl taking my order wrinkled her nose, and actually said the word, "Ewwww!" to me. I reminded her, as I did in a previous paragraph, that this was not, in fact, her meal. The combination sounded just right to me at the time....and as I recall, it was delicious.

My lovely Ex-Mom-In-Law was blessed in her lifetime with not one, but two picky eaters. She came by the second one in the form of a step-grandson, Junior. Junior, who was seven, had Papa John wrapped around his little finger. Whenever they had Junior on a Saturday, they had to make a stop at Dairy Queen to feed him. Why, you may ask? Because little Junior would only eat chicken strips from Dairy Queen, and nothing else would do. Even when he got said strips, he went through a ritual of touching it, poking with his finger to see if the tenderness level was acceptable. Then he picked it up, turning it over to make certain that the color was consistent. If not, that piece would get set aside. Then he smelled it, putting it up to his delicate nostrils to make sure it would suffice. If the texture, color, and aroma met with his approval, only then would it be considered for consumption. Items that actually made it to the stomach had to pass the taste test, as well. Chicken strips that were made an hour ago and kept under the heat lamps did not pass the test. Junior could TELL. Many a Saturday found ExMomInLaw and PapaJohn cruising to Dairy Queen, in an effort to feed Junior. Sometimes the venture was successful; sometimes not.

The argument still holds that no matter how the texture, color, or if one food item is touching any other food all ends up the same place, to turn into the same thing.

In my world, it was eat or starve. Those were the only two options my parents ever offered. I was not offered Dairy Queen. I would have fallen over if they'd offered me Dairy Queen. If I committed to eating whatever the Meal du Jour was, however, I was darn well going to eat the whole thing. They weren't into waste.

Speaking of waste...I am reminded of the bleary-eyed bakers that I used to work with in the local grocery store's bakery. Five a.m. found them slinging dough onto the baker's bench, sneezing and coughing from the flour dust. (My friend's son, who was a baker, had a dough ball removed once from within his sinuses that was said to have been as big as his thumb....but that's another story). At any rate, the guys weren't happy to be there. And it was inevitable that somewhere along the line this conversation had to happen. We were all thinking it, anyway. Someone just got the nerve to finally say it.

"Why are we doing this?" asked one of the bakers, "What is it all for?"

The others just nodded, still a bit numb from having to get up way too early, five or six days out of the week.

"I mean....think about it. We make these donuts, or cakes, or muffins....what happens to them? They get eaten, that's what..."

The rest of us nodded again, certain of what was coming next.

"....And THEN what happens? Where does it go? It turns into (waste), that's what. People eat it, it turns into (waste), and then they (waste) it right out."

More nodding, and a long, thoughtful pause.

"We are literally making (waste) right now. For people to (waste) right back out... And we're not paid (waste) to do it.....what is it all for, anyway?"

Smiles around the baker's bench, and more nodding. The theme was catching on.

"Hey, Hal...hand me that can of (waste), so that I can make this (waste)..."

"....So that someone can eat the (waste) and (waste) it out..."

A few got carried away and started calling each other (waste)-for-brains, etc. They were really getting creative.

All day long I could hear them saying, "Hey Bud, we need five dozen more loaves of that french bread, there..." and Bud, of course, would reply cheerfully, "What for? It's just going to turn right into (waste)!"

Later in the day, I was constructing a multi-tiered wedding cake for a customer. My manager, Terry, stopped to observe. With a little grin, he began, "Why are you spending so much time on that cake, anyway? It's just going to get eaten, you know. And do you know what's going to happen to it after that? You do, don't you....!" I already started shaking my head in an effort to ignore him...but he continued on..

"That fancy cake is going right down the toilet, that's what. Right down the old crapper, the sewer system, the...."

"...I see your point! All right, already! Go play elsewhere...Sheesh!"

"....Nice cake!" he said, in parting, "Too bad it's just going to be (waste) here in about the next twelve-to-twenty-four hours!"

You can see that this day had a very definite theme.

Strangely enough, there is a lesson to be learned here. Sometimes, no matter what we put in, or how carefully we prepare it, present it or display all winds up the same. We have the choice to be picky about it, or not. In the end (no pun intended), it makes no real difference. We are sure funny how we spend so much time on things that make no real the end, that is.

It's all the same (waste), after all.

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