Fanfare for the Common Man: Food I hate

  • Monday, August 27, 2012

There are some foods I will not eat. It’s true. Honest.
I will not eat liver. No way. No how. Ever.
I will not eat a body organ whose soul function is to process and generate waste bi-product.
I was 12 years old, at an age where I no longer took the carte blanche word of my parents, especially my dad. I sat down to dinner and smelled something really foul. It was coming from my plate.
“What is this?” I asked with a crinkled up nose.
I never asked, “What is this?” I always dug right in, devoured my food, and then sat for the rest of the meal, hovering over my siblings’ plates like a vulture, asking every five minutes, “You going to eat that?”
Not this time.
“That’s steak,” my dad replied, and that’s when I realize, though not for the first time, but with an adult-like clarity, that parents lie to their children. I processed this information. I even tried ketchup and A1 Steak Sauce and after one more bite challenged my father’s ascertains.
“I don’t care what you call this, it ain’t steak,” I said, and for the first time in my life I defied my father’s commands that I eat my dinner and pushed my plate away.
If this were a supernatural world, the skies would have parted then and fire and brimstone would have rained down upon us. The floor would have frozen to ice as for certain Hell hath surely frozen over.
Even in this un-supernatural world I think there was a distant rumble of thunder somewhere. Dan does not turn down food.
There was one other food I wouldn’t touch as a kid – macaroni and cheese. This dislike of dairy and grain didn’t make sense because I loved macaroni and I loved cheese, just not together. The problem wasn’t in the taste as it was in the texture. That maggoty noise the macaroni made when you stirred in the melted cheese and milk made me gag.
It gives me the shivers even today.
Mac and cheese played a wicked trick on me in later years. I came across this dish called Three-Cheese Pasta, an Italian blend mixing Parmesan, Romano and Mozzarella cheeses with half and half and Penne pasta. You mix the ingredients and then bake the casserole dish to brown the cheese on top to a crispy crust.
I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it.
I touted the dish to family and friends as the next great culinary discovery. It became my signature dish at get-togethers and parties.
“Hey everyone, Dan’s bringing his special Three-Cheese Pasta dish.”
My then 9-year old nephew Tommy – the smart nephew – set me straight.  
Tommy’s sitting across the Christmas dinner table from me, heaping on the Three-Cheese Pasta, and I, trying to share a moment with my nephew, say, “You really like that Three-Cheese Pasta, huh?”
Tommy looks up as he stuffs a big forkful of Three-Cheese Pasta in his mouth and mumbles in a matter of fact tone, “You know this is macaroni and cheese, right?”
I looked at my nephew like I’d been asked to solve a quantum physics equation.
Okay, I conceded the cheese part.
But this was not macaroni, I argued.
“This is Penne pasta.”
And what is macaroni?
It took about five Mississippi’s before it sank in.
And then somebody stirred the Three-Cheese Pasta.

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