Side Story: Meat Therapy

27 Mar

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on this blog before but–ahem–I have serious issues with—with–meat. There. I said it in cyberspace. I mean, just look at this:

I don’t care how well you cook it, how many pickle slices, mustard, mayo (another disgusting thing) or ketchup and onions or garnish you put on it, THIS IS WHAT IT REALLY IS. Right there.

It’s really strange, too, my meat hang-up. I mean, it’s not a love-hate relationship with meat. Rather, it’s a don’t like-hate relationship with all things fleshy. I remember being a kid and being told to finish my dinner or lunch or whatever and whenever it involved certain kinds of meat, I was in big trouble. I could sit at the kitchen table for hours after everyone else had long left the kitchen and were burping up after dinner essence in front of the TV. They had eaten their dessert already, too. I would miss the tail end of  Sonny & Cher on account of those icky veins clinging to a chicken drumstick.

Not to mention it’s a foot-leg. A foot-leg. I mean, for crying out loud, you can see where the foot was cut off. Where the animal WALKED AROUND.

And don’t even mention salami.

All those awful, horrid, unsightly beads of fat and gristle–too much to bear.

I loathed sausage as a kid. Still do. (Hey, you know what they say: Two things you never want to see being made are laws and sausages.)

Oy infinity.

My grandfather would go fishing and return home with a bucket of fish to my horror. Of the other two kids in the house, for some reason I remember ME having to scale them in the kitchen sink. Of course I could only do it if I put on my grandmother’s near elbow-length yellow rubber gloves first. Just looking down into that smelly bucket and seeing those dead fish and their eyes all unblinking staring at me made my eyes water. And get this: ole Daddy expected me to cut the heads off. Child abuse for sure. Oh, how I wept at that kitchen sink. 

It was all too much.

Fish eyes and chopped off fish heads (which I never could bring myself to do anyway; I refused to chop the head off of anything) and scales flying everywhere and the stench that filled the kitchen and hearing the TV in the living room that I couldn’t watch because I was on fish duty.

TOO MUCH.

So I always had issues with meat. With flesh. With eating the body of something. The eyes. The tail. The guts. The veins. Hoofs. Feet. Snouts. Ears. The organs.

OHMYGOSH. The organs!

We had liver every so often, too. That stringy, tough, horribly strange looking meat that at eight years old I’m not sure I knew was an actual LIVER, as in an animal’s ORGAN that processes WASTE. (I think I need to find a post-meat therapist stat.) And my grandmother, bless her wondrousness, she used to order liverwurst from a catalogue and when it arrived us kids would taste it because, well, she’d made such a big deal about it. I think it came all the way from Germany (or Cincinnati) somewhere and see, we could go to school and tell our friends that we’d eaten liverwurst, dears.

Gristles and bone marrow and fat and odd strings inside of animal flesh. I ate it because I was a rent-free kid and, well, because others around me ate it. My fellow people would sit down to the dinner table and place their face into their food and chew and swallow. They seemed to enjoy this meat stuff so I did it too. But I did it hesitantly. I was often accused of wasting food. Of wasting “good food.” SO EAT UP NOW. I was threatened with no dessert far too often. (Light bulb moment: I think that’s why to this day I cannot NOT have dessert after dinner.)

At aged five through perhaps 15 I just couldn’t bring myself to easily put gristles and fat and strings and veins in my mouth. Flesh disturbed me. Spaghetti didn’t. Flesh disrupted me. Peanut butter & jelly didn’t. Flesh uprooted me. Cap’n Crunch cereal didn’t. Flesh horrified me. French fries didn’t.

I  remember when Wendy’s fast food restaurant rolled out their chicken sandwiches in 1987-88 and I ordered one on a lunch break from my temp job and I was driving and opening the wrapper simultaneously. I bit down into that chicken sandwich and–swear to gosh–a huge vein BOINGED from the flesh and bounced against my chin. I almost crashed my car. For a milli-second I thought the chicken sandwich was…ALIVE. Needless to say I threw the dang thing on the floor of my car and wiped my tongue with napkins I was so repulsed. I considered returning it to Wendy’s but between being on a short lunch break and not knowing how “Excuse me, Mr. Wendy’s Manager? This chicken sandwich is supernatural; I’d like my money back” would go over, I kept pressing on.

See? I’m meat rambling. This is really bad. I’ll stop here and go have a cheese sandwich. Zero gristles.

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