Published on October 6th, 2016 | by Richard Black2
A Tradition of Food Poisoning
I was going through my biannual dose of food poisoning this past Monday when I had a chance to reflect upon some of the poorer decisions I’ve made in my life.
The time I gave the school bully in sixth grade the finger for no apparent reason came to mind. Passing up that threesome in college was another. More pertinently (yes I promise it’s a word) was my recent decision to eat a bowl of tortilla soup that had been hiding in the back of our fridge for a good two or three weeks.
Now one may reasonably wonder why I’d chosen to eat a bowl of soup that was clearly past it’s prime. I get it. Call it a father’s duty. The sad fact is that I don’t feel as if I’m doing my job as a man and father if I don’t catch a lively bout of microbial distress once or twice or even three times a year. It might sound strange but I promise it makes sense.
I come from a long line of human garbage disposals. My father consumed questionable foodstuffs for the bulk of his life as did his father before him and his father before him. Other than crying during the holidays or actively courting salmonella we don’t have many traditions in the Black household which is probably for the best. In a paternal line that tends to hand down alcoholism and mental illness in lieu of a cherished set of silverware a history of gastrointestinal distress is probably the best I can hope for. At least I can say that I come by it honestly.
Many years ago when I was just a boy and my old man was left to his own devices he made us a meal. It consisted of a few cans of Dinty Moore stew bought sometime around Gerald Ford’s presidency, something called Veg-All and some stewed red beets. The end result was something that looked like a radioactive goulash with a cow placenta thrown in for good measure. Despite it’s complete and total lack of appeal but my siblings and I ate the concoction. Most of us survived to complain about it for the next twenty years (except for you Timmy, God rest your soul, we know you’re in a better place now.)
The old man came by his culinary masochism naturally. His old man, my grandfather, used to make ham salad sandwiches out of a ground meat-like product that was only “ham” in the broadest sense of the word. It presumably originated from a pig at some point but was so processed that it came in a tube or a can.
Shortly before he passed my grandfather began experimenting with various other canned meats. A salmon salad sandwich was introduced around the time we all decided to visit a bit less often. Among my cousins there was a rumor that some sort of Vienna sausage monstrosity was in the works. I never had the displeasure of sampling that particular delicacy and, if it ever existed, the recipe has been lost to the ages when my grandfather passed into the great beyond.
Propriety forbids me from even wondering about the horrors of what my grandfather’s old man used to eat. Suffice it to say that I imagine it involved a lot of entrails and pickled hoofs topped liberally with mustard made in a dead WWI German’s boot.
Tradition is a fine thing but it must accommodate the changing times and certain FDA rules and regulations. I’m not an overtly cruel man and after some reflection I’ve decided not to inflict my…peculiar condition..upon my loved ones. Instead I like to think that I’m providing them with a cautionary example. You’ll have to forgive me now I’m feeling a bit peckish and there are a few enchiladas in the back of the fridge I’ve had my eyes on for the past few weeks.