Archive for the ‘food’ Category

“Do it now, Meredith!”


“All of us ate it, Meredith, now you have to. DO IT.”

I stood in that dimly lit kitchen at approximately 4:15 a.m., holding a small plastic cup containing my inevitable disgusting fate: peanut butter, chocolate sauce, and brown mustard. Oh and Soy Sauce.


They all stood around me like vultures about to seize my flesh in their gaping, teenage mouths, shrieking obscenities, insults, and reminders that I was the only girl who hadn’t promised to eat whatever concoction was created for the worst Truth or Dare game of my life.

I was easily the prettiest girl there. I had long, straight, sun-streaked hair, fair skin, and a slender teenage body, toned from swimming, dancing, and acting out Broadway musicals in my room. I had started grooming my thick, dark brown eyebrows and wore eyeliner that often shaded my under eyes making them smokey and mysterious. I was just young enough to get away with playing Truth or Dare until the morning hours at a slumber party; just old enough to understand the potential repercussions of admitting too much truth and taking on too serious of a dare.


The girls kept shouting out me, the girls that I had just confessed my deepest secrets to; who I crushed on, how many boys’ hands I had held and lips I had kissed, how I really felt about my body. They were all turning against me, all 8 or 9 of these girls, chubby, greasy faced, frizzy haired meanies who were probably tormented at their own schools.

My mother was friends with the mother of the host of this party. Earlier that night, I’m sure we dined on pizza and coke, watched a scary movie, and started our friendly game of Truth or Dare just after midnight. Some of the girls were gross: pimples about to burst on shiny faces, braces poking out from chapped lips, glances of foreign and revolting private parts underneath the big t-shirts of the girls who refused to wear underthings because they said it made them feel better. These were the girls that sat in the back of the class. The ones with the strange smell and the bizarre laugh. The ones that would grow up to either be a cafeteria lunch lady, a janitor’s wife, or in spend most of their lives in prison.

I stood there staring down the cup of disgusting, defiant and near tears, as I simply said, “No.”

The host of the party, one of the girls refusing to wear underwear, grabbed it from me and stuck it in my face.

“You’re going to eat this whole thing!”

Maniacal laughter echoed in the kitchen. I started to cry. They knew that eating this goop was my greatest weakness because the thought of vomiting still makes me emotional to this day.

I spent almost the entire 8th year of my life sick in bed after my parents separated. Anxiety was the official cause of my stomach ailment. 16 some years later, I still remember reaching for the metal bowl to get sick, following sobs and low moans from pain, embarrassment, and the loss of the nutrition that my body so desperately needed. The thought of gagging and getting sick in front of these girls was destroying me.

And since my begging didn’t get me anywhere fast, I decided to just go ahead, dip my spoon in the mixture, and take a very small taste. As I placed the tip of the spoon to my mouth, the girls protested, demanding that I slurp up more.

I don’t remember how the spoon got into my mouth, but it did. And I gagged. And I let the tears fall down my young face in front of all those laughing girls who had probably felt like they had finally gotten payback for all the name calling and torture they had received in their young lifetimes. And I ran to the bathroom to get sick, and cry, a sight I’m sure most, if not all of those teenage harpies enjoyed.

I didn’t learn any real life lesson from this experience, nothing about trust, or self-confidence, or standing up for myself. I let the spoon pass into my mouth. I let the mixture linger on my tongue; I eventually tried to swallow it so that these girls would just shut up and leave me alone. If I close my eyes, I can just hear their voices, yelling and demanding, and the contents of that cup: heaps of brown mustard tucked into folds of flowing Hershey’s chocolate, piled on top of lumps of crunchy peanut butter and sprinkled with soy sauce.

And in reality, sometimes, I find myself swallowing things that I should never do, only to try and silence the nay-sayers or appease the masses in my life. I am bullied and I bully myself frequently. I let myself consume thoughts nastier than that stupid Dare in that kitchen all those years ago; one of the many real games of Truth or Dare I’ve ever allowed myself to play.


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Read backward along our posts… We are women haunted by our memories.

Memory is a funny thing. I’ve had many bouts of short-term memory loss (much to the entertainment of my friends), but then there are memories far more vivid than the situation seemed to warrant. There are songs, smells, scenes, even clothes that trigger intense and disorienting reveries.

Today, I wore a shirt that says “We Fired Your Mom” on the back. I just grabbed it out of my footlocker – it’s an ad-T-shirt from The Boat House Grill. I didn’t know which shirt it was ’til I’d unrolled it, and I didn’t really think much of it at first. But it had been buried in that footlocker for most of the year, and as I went about my day, I had a long series of recollections about times spent at The Boat House.

I bought that T-shirt last August. I was at work one day, and something (oddly, that’s one part of the story I’ve forgotten) triggered more than a little panic. I absolutely had to get out of there. At 10:30 in the morning, I just left. Nobody was around, and I don’t even think I left a note. I just had to leave… right then. But where to go on a blisteringly hot summer day? I’d moved out of my house, so I couldn’t go home… “home” at the time was 1/2 hour away, and I did intend to go back to work if I could get my wits about me. And then it hit me. The Boat House. I missed it. And I’d miss it even more once I’d moved. So I took the 1/2 hour drive there (yes, I see the irony). I ate fried catfish and hushpuppies, drank a Dr. Pepper, and bought a T-shirt. As I was leaving, my phone rang. “You coming back?” “Yeah.” “OK; I just wanted to know what to tell people. They’re looking.” “Just tell them I went to lunch.” “You sure? I can handle things if you need to… whatever you’re doing… [nervous laugh]” “Nope. On my way. See you.”

First time I went to The Boat House was with Mary. She’s my mom’s age and was my mentor at my first job as a chemist. Her dietary restrictions are similar to mine, and we were always on a quest for something without wheat or potatoes. So there we found ourselves, eating cornmeal-battered catfish and hushpuppies. Now this wasn’t just your ordinary catfish. This is fresh-water catfish from the lake that’s a stone’s throw from the restaurant. Mild, perfectly cooked, fresh, and tender.

I used to go there with Kirby, another friend from work. He’d get the veggie burger and fries. I’d steal a couple of fries (two or three is about the limit), and he’d have a hushpuppy or two. After a few trips there, it was just routine. Sit down at the table, trade around the side dishes, dig in. Whoever stands up first has to get refills of 1/2-coke-1/2-sprite for me and 1/2-diet-coke-1/2-dr-pepper for him. And napkins. We always needed more napkins. We went there with an interview candidate once. The candidate gave us a very odd look when we started shifting our food around. While that memory is funny, I also remember showing my unbelievable ignorance of a chemistry fact during the conversation. One of those still-smarting stupid moments. After K and I switched companies, we kept trying to come up with another reason to go there… I think we only managed it once.

But I managed it, on my own, on one of my last days in Austin. And I have a T-shirt to prove it.

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The good life

I am no expert. I’ve found that I have a terrible memory for names of wines and beers, not to mention other foods (e.g., cheeses) & drinks. I know what I like… when I taste it. But I might not remember tomorrow what it was. Once upon a time, in another life, I had the opportunity to eat some very pricey, very gourmet, and very good foods and wines from around the world (in New York City). In a different life altogether, I learned a lot about beer (and that there’s more to beer than Guiness and Shiner, TGFSFs). I have very definite opinions about some things (I prefer reds to whites, don’t like lagers, love IPAs, and could eat Ethiopian food ’til I’m ill), but mostly, I just love to eat and drink. It’s not like I go crazy or anything – one glass of beer is more than enough, and so is one scoop of ice cream. But I can make a glass of beer last an awfully long time… and savor every second.

Of late, I’ve been taking a “tour of the world” with some friends from work. It started with Ethiopian, but we’ve been for Turkish, Afghan, Thai, Indian, Russian, Chinese, Kabob… I don’t even remember what all. And it’s all good. My husband makes the best fajitas I’ve ever had. I love pancakes for dinner. Grilled onions straight out of the skillet. Cocoa Pebbles with cartoons in the morning.

I’m pretty much happy with whatever is put before me – cereal and yogurt for dinner? No problem. Cold pizza for breakfast? Suits me. But sometimes, life hands me an experience that reminds me how much I love food.

Tonight, I went to Spagio Cellars, a little wine bar associated with Spagio European and Pacific Rim Cuisine. As an aside before I launch in, lemme say that my favorite concept in the restaurant business is the sampler. It’s not that I’m indecisive (OK, I am, but that’s beside the point), but why pick when you can taste everything? Anyway, so first we ordered this Artisan Cheese Board. 1000 day aged Gouda, Brie, Chevre, Spanish Tetilla, and Cambozola… served with a dried fig, a dried date, three tiny slices of pepperoni, and french bread. OMG, I’ve died and gone to heaven. Then, I ordered a flight of “full bodied reds.” Two ounce glasses of: Chateau Coupes Roses, 2005 Minervois La Bastide (Languedoc, France); Turkey Flat, 2005 Butcher’s Block (Barossa Valley, Australia); and Domaine Bastide Blanche, 2004 Bandol (Provence, France). Of all these, the one I liked the best was the one with the least pretty name – Turkey Flat – but all three were damn good.

Now, my mouth is happy.

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