Wednesday, March 2, 2011
It is hard to believe that I cannot recall which adults were in charge of the four of us. It could have been Popo and Kung Kung. They drove us on many long trips far from our parents--sometimes with our parents (or some combination of them--but this time I had the distinct memory that Uncle Dick was in charge, so there must not have been any grandparents at the time.
It was lunchtime, and I was hungry. We had stopped at a deli to get breads, condiments to spread, and a number of different deli meats, most of which I did not regularly eat. The picnic table was set, and the food spread out. I was not a huge sandwich fan, but I do remember liking packaged bolony. (Nowadays, people I know would not be caught dead eating it, and they probably call it bologna, choosing the real thing and not the large, floppy, pre-sliced lunch meat I preferred with the band of removable casing around the edge.)
But this picnic table had a whole lot more than that on it. Uncle Dick was the one making the sandwiches, and I suppose I inherently trusted he would make something I would eat, or that he would ask me what I might want to eat. But he handed me a sandwich that I did not recognize and, when asked, told me it had salami, pastrami, and tongue. I almost fainted. Did he really say that? Tongue? As in the thing I use every day to speak and eat with? He couldn't have meant the same thing. Besides, whose tongue was it? And why did I have to eat it?
By now, all us were getting our sandwiches to eat, and my cousin, Cecily, and I were stuck with tongue sandwiches. We looked at each other with wrinkled noses and I started to protest. Uncle Dick bellowed out whatever he bellowed, and all I know is that it translated to: you better eat that, or you will seriously regret it. I am not sure how I managed since I thought this was akin to giving someone a human arm sandwich. I'm not sure that Cecily protested either. Uncle Dick being her own imperious father surely gave her a lot of experience with his reactions to petty grievances or prolonged protests, so however she handled it, she, too, survived.
Whether it was through repeated exposure to unfamiliar foods (every animal, every part of the animal) or Stockholm syndrome, I eventually became more adventurous many years later, once I was on my own. Recalling my grandparents (particularly my grandmothers) who would eat the eyes out of the steamed fish, I offered the eyeball of a big eye tuna to my daughter. My dad and I had ordered this special on the menu, thinking that the focus was on the 'tuna' and not the descriptor ('big eye'). But arrive it did, and all that was there was a tuna head with, well, one big eye. I think everyone at the table was a little surprised there was almost no meat--just the cheeks and the eye. Not even the collar. Realizing that this was the whole 'dish,' I decided to find out who wanted it. I asked, and my daughter accepted, popping the whole thing in her mouth and chewing it up before realizing there was only texture and no flavor. My vegetarian husband had long since expired.