Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tuna Meltdown

This past Sunday I had a bit of a food meltdown. Matt and I were sitting in yet another super-cheap, dingy Chinese restaurant--the kind with an English menu, thank goodness. However, my food sucked. Really---it was slimy, undercooked, stinky, and secretly loaded with 3-4 short black hairs. Completely unappetizing. Even Matt didn't want to try it. Now that says something.

[Let me insert here that I hate to be the kind of picky, rich American who can sit down at a meal, only to turn their nose up and refuse to eat it, but can still afford to pay for uneaten food and manage to stop at Starbucks for an overpriced pastry afterwards to compensate. My mom taught me to always try everything and be adventurous. So, at these cheap restaurants, I really struggle with how to behave. Do I eat to be polite, hoping in vain not to offend the nice people who cooked and served me my meal? Do I just leave it barely touched, knowing that I will never go back there again? How do I live with myself knowing that there are starving children in Asia who would gladly eat my meal for me? If I keep trying everything set before me, will I eventually stop craving Chili's Chicken Fried Steak and start to really appreciate slimy, hairy, undercooked food? I'm starting to see that I spend most of my meals racked with guilt. Perhaps that's why everything tastes bad.]

I looked up at Matt with sad eyes, when something dawned on me. Not only was I not going to eat any part of my lunch, but I realized that I didn't feel any deep-seeded need to even attempt to like it. "No," I thought to myself, "I'm not even going to make an effort, and I'm perfectly ok with that." Something in me snapped and I began to embrace my pickiness. I felt I deserved to be picky. A girl can only take so much.

Matt looked at me with a glint in his eyes (that glint he gets just when he's about to be clever and funny and painfully honest, all at the same time) and said..

"Erika, do you ever think maybe you were born to be rich, and just aren't yet?"

[I pride myself on being adaptable and hardworking--never minding a little hardship and discomfort. I like thinking of myself as a farm-raised, tough-girl tomboy...sort of. So this recent realization that I wanted to be nothing but picky and selfish sort of threw me off a bit. Don't get me wrong--I'm often picky and selfish, it's just that I live in denial most of the time, so for once I was being completely honest about my true nature.]

So this prompted a discussion between us about if it's okay to hate Chinese food* and whether or not I'm really a picky eater or not. At one point I said,

"But I eat ding dongs and Little Debbie cakes. Lots of people hate those."

At which point Matt said, "Yeah, Erika, I think you are single-handedly keeping the snack cake companies in business."

By this time, as you can well see, the conversation had disinigrated into nonsense, so we paid for our food (mine still mostly untouched, but now minus the 3-4 short, black hairs because I had already very thoughtfully removed them) and left.

I'm not really sure what my point was to this blog, except maybe to emphasize that I'm still having some food issues. But as some great scholar surely said at some point, you can't live on eggrolls alone, so I'm bound to find a solution to my food aversions soon enough. Having my own kitchen will help considerably. That should happen by this weekend if everything goes well.

*I love eggrolls. They are exempt.


LauraLunch said...

I know I've said this a million times, but the thing I CANNOT get over is that my picky brother is actually eating that stuff. Seriously. You should have seen him as a kid. I wanna know what snapped in him?

Take heart. I figure of all the countries you could have moved to, China probably has one of the most different menus to adjust to. I'm sure you'll find your niche. You know, cheap restaurants here in America aren't any more appetizing. Make that hubby spend some money on you!

Irene Soderstrom said...

"Erika, do you ever think maybe you were born to be rich, and just aren't yet?"

Wow, Matt. I hate to contribute to bursting your denial bubble, Erika, but I gotta say, that may be the most deeply insightful comment I've ever heard. As big sister, I should have probably thought of that years ago. But don't fret, Erika. Those very same picky tendencies are what make you a brilliant florist, chocolatier, and artist extraordinaire. What some call pickiness, I see more as more than detail-oriented self-awareness.

Emily said...

Erika, you would be the perfect rich girl. You have all of the taste needed and none of the snobby attitude. I think we're all secretly hoping that Matt makes it big for all of us!

Kelloh said...

Oh my gosh, that is so funny. Malcolm and I have had the exact same conversations and meals! He tells me all the time that I act like I will be rich, but I don't agree. I think I am quite medium in money sense. Did that sentence make sense? Anyway, it is fine to not eat a bit of the food you order, you just aren't going to like everything. And it takes a while to know what is a safe bet in ordering. Anyway, don't feel bad. In fact, you should have shown them the hairs and demanded that they bring you something else. You're white, you can do it! (sorry but asia does have reverse discrimination)

Well, have you tried Char Siew Rice yet, Hong Kong is famous for it and I got by on that meal for months. That and wanton noodles are my favorite. For me, I ate the same thing over and over until my tastes changed and then I was able to try a lot more stuff. Don't they have cheap japanese places? Japanese food is so much better than chinese, I think.

Crabby Rangoon said...

Matt and I have discovered that all our favorite restaurants (minus the Lebanese ones) all turn out to be Japanese fast food chains. Who would've known?

matt said...

lauralunch: me? picky? I remember myself as being pretty good about food as a kid. Of course, I had a standing prohibition against anything that swam for a living. . . or crawled underwater . . . but you get the point. Right? Anyway, when your job's on the line, you learn to eat what's set in front of you.

kelloh: I think that sentence was supposed to be, "quite medium in the money cents," right?

LauraLunch said...

Matt: Well, right. We all had our one thing, but mine was hotdogs. Can you blame me? Yours was an entire genre of food. Besides that, you're right. You weren't very picky...that job fell to one of our sisters who shall remain nameless. Maybe you could try offering Erika a quarter to try something new. That way you're making her richer and a better eater! (Worked on us when we were 10!)

Crabby Rangoon said...

Ooh...I like that idea! One US quarter equals 2 Hong Kong dollars. Sounds better already!

holybovine said...

What? Chinese food doesn't taste like Chun-King Chicken Chow Mein? With those little crispy noodles? I'd be sunk.

Crabby Rangoon said...

Yeah, I think there's a reason it's called "American-Chinese" food. 'Cause it's certainly not the same stuff that they serve here in HK.