It’s not always what I put on my plate, but how it feels on my tongue. Or, my fingers.

Posted: November 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

When it comes to eating, I have a “slight case” of OCD. Well, maybe not a small case, but definitely a case. There are certain, er, quirks I have about the food choices I make.

I am a visual learner and, apparently, a visual eater, too. I’ve had this skill (problem?) since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Somewhere along the path to adulthood, some sort of serious damage was done to my palate that has led to some very specific likes and dislikes. Allow me to explain.

I’m both a visual and textural eater. First, it has to look “right” on my plate before I eat it. And of course, there are several criterion that must be met before I can begin any meal. Take a deep breath, because this is where it gets complicated.Some of my loved ones would even call it ridiculous, or even a major pain the ass. The last one really only applies to the times when we go out to eat and I’m faced with new menu items to have to evaluate.

Apple_pieFirst, I cannot stand mixed textures within the same food product. What do I mean by “mixed” textures? A perfect example would be fruit pie. As delicious a visual as this is, it makes my list of “do not eat” strictly because of the mixed textures. Apple chunks, when cooked, soften ever so slightly, taking on a semi-soft, semi-crunchy textural feel on the tongue. As contradictory that is, that isn’t nearly as difficult to swallow as what those apple chunks are surrounded by: gelatinous goo. This is the cytoplasmic jelly that fills in between the chunks, and this stuff is what kills it for me. I don’t know where my issue with apple pie started, especially since it is probably the most popular pie in the U.S. (hence the term “As American as apple pie”). I love the smell of it – the baked apples swathed in a rich, deep cinnamon and brown sugar sauce. My mouth waters just thinking about the flavor combinations.

However, the moment I stick one delectable fork into a still warm, freshly made piece of American goodness, I get a little panicky, a little grossed out, and start to gag at the thought of having to put all three textures: crunchy, mushy and gelatinous — into my mouth at the same time. I break out into a cold sweat and start to shudder just at the thought of this. Perhaps I need to turn in my American card. Or better yet, I should start a movement to get apple pie kicked off the list of American icons and move to a French silk cream pie instead. Now that I would happily vote for in the next election.

Textural issues don’t end with apple pie. Oh no, that isn’t nearly enough of a criterion to be able to support my OCD diagnosis. I also have a huge problem with oatmeal. But, I take my issues with texture up a notch when I talk about my aversion to the stuff. Granted, I totally understand and get that oatmeal is so very,very healthy. I also understand it is a great food that, if eaten for breakfast, keeps the blood sugar regulated and the hunger pains away. It’s just that I don’t give a rat’s ass about those benefits – it’s disgusting to look at as much as it is to eat. That’s my problem with oatmeal.

oatmeal-19_thumbAs a child growing up in a large family, I was often served whatever food could be made in large batches for as little money as possible. In the case of oatmeal, however, it was usually the instant kind, from a tear-off package, made by pouring boiling water over it, or nuked in the microwave. Regardless of how it came to my bowl, I couldn’t stand the way it looked. To me it looked like someone had just vomited into the bowl – brownish gray chunks of matter with a liquid base. I certainly wasn’t going to eat it – that’s what dogs do, vomit then eat their vomit again like some sort of disgusting recycling plan. Cleaning up vomit only becomes conveniently easy when you own a dog and cat at the same time. Cats make really weird noises before they puke, which sounds to the dog’s ears and brain as “Oh boy! That other furry thing in the house is about to serve me an afternoon snack on the living room carpet! Yeah!”

I digress. This isn’t about cat’s yawking up hairballs and whatever else they ate for breakfast all over living room floors. This is more about how I can’t stand the colors yellow and red being on a dinner plate at the same time. Or, how, I hate when everything I am eating is in the same color palette. Or, how if my food isn’t plated in exactly the correct way, I will have to stop everything I am doing and rearrange the food on my plate in just the right way before I can eat it. Yeah, that’s another “quirk” of mine.

lefthandedI am left-handed. This explains a few things (my creativity, my amazing ability to recap my dreams in vivid detail, my odd habit of wandering around the world to the left, etc). It also explains how I have to eat my dinner. Most right-handed people cut their meat or food with their right hand, then switch the fork back and pick up the food with their fork now in their right hand and shove it into their mouths. (I got you thinking now, don’t I?)

I, on the other hand, cut my food with my right-hand, and with the fork in my left hand, shovel it directly into my mouth. I get to skip an entire step of having to pass the fork back and forth. As time-consuming as this is, it still doesn’t matter if the food on the plate has to be moved to its “proper starting place” before I can even think about eating.

Black illustration of a clock faceWork with me here – imagine a clock face. Now, divide that clock into two halves, with the 12 and 6 spots being midline. In the space between the 7 and 10, I must have my meat item. In the 11 to 1ish spot, I have the vegetables (I’ll get to THAT issue in a moment). In the 2 to 5 spot is the potato, or other carbohydrate part. So technically, I divide my food into three separate sections on the plate, which (and this is very important) are NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH EACH OTHER, EVER).

I know a lot of people who don’t have a problem with all their food mashed together into one gluttonous pile. I. however, am not one of those people. Heaven forbid anything other than gravy touches my mashed potatoes. And that gravy had better be well contained in the little well I dug in my potatoes, or all hell will break loose on my plate. Brown gravy and green peas mixing together is a color wheel nightmare. Keep the yellow corn away from my potatoes. Keep the ketchup away from my french fries. Yellow and red don’t go together on my plate.

Food also has to be cooked a certain way before I eat it. I’m talking about eggs here, people. Eggs are such a wonderful little ball of protein wrapped in conveniently packaged ovoid spheres. But, crack that shell open and the game changes. For me, that means several things must occur before I can even think about putting what came out of the back end of chicken into my mouth.

First of all, the yolk and the whites need to be gently mixed together. While I am perfectly okay with eating scrambled eggs, I do enjoy an occasional fried egg. But again, the fried eggs must have the yolks broken, and gently stirred and dragged through the clear white, snot-like liquid before they are fried to a crisp. If I see even a hint of wobbly, uncooked egg white on the plate, I’m not eating it. And, this is something that has caused a lot of wasted food at restaurants. I will not eat them, period. I’ve learned not to order fried eggs out very often, opting for scrambled eggs or an omelette instead. It’s just not worth the effort. Fried eggs are an at-home thing, where I’m in total control of the doneness.

ribs

My texture issues don’t end with how food feels in my mouth, either. I love barbecued food, but cannot stand how the sauce feels on my fingers. Unlike 99% of the barbecued rib eaters in this world who pick the whole rib up and eat it like a chicken drumstick (I’ll get to my aversion of those next), I prefer to use a knife and fork and pull the meat off the bones before I begin to devour them. If the meat doesn’t pull off easily from the bone, I will cut it off as best I can. Sometimes, I will even avoid ordering barbecue ribs out as a safety measure. Not every restaurant that serves ribs cooks them long enough to guarantee they will fall off the bone. Which leads me to the other major issue I have with meat: tendons and veins.

I will recoil in horror at chicken wings and drumsticks Why? Because when I bite into them, I can see the tendons, cartilage and veins in them. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel like a cannibal. I imagine horrible things not worth mentioning here. My chicken has to be white meat and boneless. The same situation exists with turkey. Fights have broken out in my family over the Thanksgiving turkey drumsticks. I only eat the breast meat, and it had better not be wet. Dry, white meat is only kind I’ll eat.

Bowl of riceYears ago, when I was still young and highly suggestible, my older sister played a trick on me that would last for the next twenty-five years. Mom had just cooked up a big bowl of rice to go with our meal. As she scooped a portion of it into my little salad bowl, my sis turned to me and said “You know that really isn’t white rice, don’t you?” I looked up at her with wide and innocent eyes and tried to argue that yes, it was just rice but Jane was insistent. She took her fork and poked it into my bowl, making the little grains shift around a bit. I asked her what she was doing and she just looked at me and casually remarked, “Actually, they’re maggots. I’m just checking to see if they’re all dead before you eat them.”

Highly suggestible, indeed. In fact, it took me twenty-five years and a long overdue apology from my sister before I would even touch a grain of rice again.

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