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Bite This

By Scott Roeben

I have an interesting relationship with food. Namely, I don't bother it, and it doesn't bother me. I could eat pizza from now until I breathe my last, cash in my chips, pull a cluck, pop off the hooks and climb the golden staircase. It wouldn't bother me. Variety, schmariety.

Food provides sustenance. That's it. It is not an event, or an experience or centerpiece of a gathering. Eating is something you do while you are doing the thing you are really doing. Food is not the point. It is the thing that keeps you alive while you are trying to figure out what the point is.

Food is far too important to us, evidenced by how other countries manage just fine with less of it. So, I suggest we limit our food to just pizza. And perhaps M & Ms, which I am not sure qualifies as food, exactly, but who cares?

Further evidence of our obsession with food can be seen in the average bill at your average fine dining establishment. What, other than fanatical preoccupation, could possess us to pay upwards of $70.00 for a plate of food consisting of rice, parsley and a piece of veal almost visible with the naked eye?

There is a possibility that my disdain for food came about because as a youngster I was not exposed to many types of food. My mother was usually the one strapped with the responsibility of cooking for the family, a group of human beings who wouldn't recognize a frappé if it had bitten us in the torte. Mom tried. She really did. She would faithfully clip recipes from magazines in an attempt to widen her repertoire. Perhaps she would have had better luck if she had avoided "Popular Mechanics" and "Dry Wall Digest." Things only got worse when she began culling recipes from in-flight publications.

No matter how hard Mom tried, no matter how much time she spent in the kitchen slaving over a hot microwave, she rarely managed to make any main course with any more taste than your average marsh fern. It never made us love her less. Probably.

Whatever the reason, I dislike far more foods than I'm fond of. I even manage to dislike foods I have never tasted. You might suggest that this is akin to hating the French without ever going to France. Well, save yourself the trip. They are rude imbeciles, and words like "akin" sound even more pretentious when spoken in French.

Examples of food I have never tasted are: cheesecake, whey, artichokes, peaches, calamari, quail, squash, chitterlings, baked Alaska, mutton, oysters, parfait, kielbasa, duck sausage, sweet potatoes, avocados, cherries, pumpkin pie, venison, too many kinds of cheese to mention (except for "Edelpilzkäse," which I mention because it has the coolest of all cheese names) and any number of fish including blackfish, yellowtail, terrapin, haddock, perch, mahimahi, smelt, halibut, grunion and herring. And that doesn't even begin to touch upon the nut and condiment groups.

Your first instinct is, no doubt, to pity me. But I don't miss never having tried these foods. In fact, I can't imagine having all those choices. Ordering at a restaurant would just take too darned long. "Yes, would you please run down your list of four hundred varieties of roughage, please?" I merely enter an establishment, order the food that most resembles pizza, and it's settled. It frees up a lot of my time.

While I dislike an array of food--whether I've actually tried it or not--I have to admit that American food does not even begin to repulse me as much as some of the foreign dishes I've heard described. We Americans have always been proud of our health-giving innovations such as Cheese-Whiz and corn dogs, but we are mere culinary amateurs when compared to our counterparts in other parts of the world.

Around the globe, there are such tempting dishes as broiled sparrows (Japanese), fried calf's head (Hungarian), baked bat (Samoan), stuffed cow spleen (Jewish), pig's face and cabbage (Irish), white ant pie (Zanzibari) and sun-dried maggots (Chinese).

The French are responsible for beef udder pot roast, cow brain fritters, fish sperm crepes, golden calf testicles and sea urchin gonad sauce. (Ah, the French again. There is just so much to turn the stomach.)

I only wish I was fabricating these delights for the palate.

Mom, I'm sorry. I never realized how much worse it could have gotten.


© Scott Roeben, 1999, 2000. All rights reserved.