The Pig (the beagle) and L’il Sis came to visit on the weekend. The Pig dashed, with her winter coat still on, velcro sash flapping, skidding around the corner, into the kitchen to see what Grandma (me) had to tickle her palate. I had been saving odd bits of leftovers for her all week. I put them in her dish as L’il Sis said: “Oh, Piggy…Grandma has Surf ‘n Turf for you today. What a lucky dog!” By the time she finished saying that, The Pig had cleaned up the offerings and was working on taking the pattern off the bowl.
I’ve had real ‘Surf ‘n Turf’ at posh restaurants and this melange that I presented to The Pig hardly qualified. However, for a hound accustomed to eating one of the most common brands of kibble (with a nasty smell obviously not meant to entice humans), dead critters she finds under bushes, and her own poop as it comes out of her, my meal must have seemed the quintessential gourmet offering. I was thrilled that she enjoyed it. Then again, why should I feel complimented that someone with her undisputed poor sense of taste appreciated my cooking? Hmm…
Perhaps my glee stems from the fact that when the kids were young and battled food allergies, I was seldom treated to praise of any kind for my attempts to make their food interesting or tasty. They often (and they still think to this day I don’t know) fed their food under the table to the dog or hid offending items under the baked potato skins, hoping I wouldn’t do an ‘autopsy’ on their plates when they were done. I heard more cries of, “Yuck!What’s this?” than I care to say.
And contrary to the delight most kids display when invited to a birthday party, mine went into a deep funk.
“Why so glum?” I asked. “I thought you loved birthday parties!” I said this while smiling and pretending this was the greatest social event of the season. I took my role as head cheerleader and fixer of all things seriously. My kids were a bit, well, not exactly anti-social, but they weren’t the ‘popular’ kids either. Gill, of course, often took the role of class clown, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to our regular readers.
“Well, not to seem ungrateful, Mom, but we can’t eat the pizza or birthday cake and ice cream they’ll be serving. It’s always such a bummer to have to take our ‘special lunches’ in our lunch boxes. Everyone looks at our food in a funny way…and us…and their food looks SO good!”
I did pity them. I know how much it hurts to be the different kid, the pitiful one not allowed to join in the fun. I tried desperately to create lunches that looked almost like the real thing, but even I have to admit I failed miserably. The ‘pizza’ I fashioned had a dense rye crust, hard enough to act as a doorstop and challenging enough to break a few tiny teeth. The toppings were veggies: grated zucchini, carrots, lots of tomatoes, peppers and anything else that could be hidden and remain undetected under the tomato sauce. The problem was always the ‘cheese’. It was either soy cheese or, even worse, goat cheese. I to this day can’t eat feta or any other form of goat cheese since I remember vividly the smell. My kids would open their lunch boxes and all the guests would turn up their noses, exclaiming, “Oh! I smell goat! Are we having a petting zoo too?” Then my poor darlings would have to explain what they were eating. Does the word ‘pariah’ mean anything to you, dear readers?
It got worse. When the birthday child’s cake came out, my kids brought out their ‘cake’. It was a slab of lovingly prepared but bilious carob cake floating in a carob sauce. But, in order to show I loved them and was not a completely unfeeling mother with no concern for their welfare, I always included a special candle. They never said anything after the party, but I suspect the candle wasn’t the coup, the special prize I envisioned it to be. Their downcast expressions said it all.
Now that I think of it, perhaps that explains Gill’s current fascination now with the tea parties and birthday celebrations that pop up regularly in her office. Deprived as a child, she is now free (without her mother there to supervise or grab the cake from her mouth) to indulge her cravings. And when she complains to me via Skype that her Crohn’s is acting up, I still manage to dredge up the appropriate tone of concern and empathy. But there is always this tiny voice in my head saying, “You foolish child! I could have told you, but you wouldn’t believe me. The Mom is right again! Now, off you go to the toilet to shit your brains (or more accurately, your colon) out!”