1. The hard-shelled reproductive body produced by a bird and especially by the common domestic chicken; also : its contents used as food. – Merriam-Webster1
2. Thing from a chicken; edible in scrambled or hard boiled form only, with no additional ingredients or seasonings other than a light dusting of salt. – The Nut, age 4
I was a picky child.
I don’t mean your standard “Ew, I hate broccoli!” pickiness. I mean I was an unabashed food racist. I liked my foods identifiable, classifiable, and never intermingled. My dinner plates could have passed for three-dimensional pie charts, each component ruthlessly pigeonholed.
Consequently, only the simplest of meals stood up to Mini Nut scrutiny. Stews and casseroles were strictly off-limits; suspect condiments such as mustard and mayo, verboten. Salad dressing acceptable but only on the side. Dare to serve me anything covered in melted cheese or any kind of sauce, and you were dead to me.
As you might imagine, I was a big hit with the parents at all my friends’ pizza parties.
I don’t know the exact number of panicked calls my mom received over the years from frantic mothers sobbing, “We’re having pizza and Mini Nut won’t eat! Why won’t she eat? EVERY KID LIKES PIZZA!” but I’m betting it was well into double digits. Just as I’m certain my mother’s usual response of, “No, no, don’t worry, she’ll be perfectly happy with the carrot and celery sticks,” was fully automatic after a mere handful of incidents.
I think my mother indulged my fussiness only because it was oddly convenient to have a child who craved a diet of simple, healthy fare over the greasy pizza, rich pasta dishes and fast food burgers that most of my friends begged their parents for day after day.
That’s not to say I didn’t know how to live a little. Even a sourpuss can have a sweet tooth, and my food policing was infinitely more relaxed around desserts and other sugary creations. In fact, my assessment of the quality of any given restaurant depended entirely on whether their menu listed that timeless children’s classic, the silver dollar pancake.
Pancakes! Let parents everywhere rejoice; here was something safe and refreshingly normal that Mini Nut would happily dig into and even drown in copious amounts of syrup, just like a real child. So long as you didn’t pull any bullshit moves like putting butter or whipped cream on those suckers, or then we would have words.
So it was with confidence that my mother took me on a shopping and brunch outing with my grandmother one day, knowing the restaurant we were headed to was well stocked in pancake batter and perfectly able to deliver the miniature golden rounds of fluffy silver dollar deliciousness that would keep me happy for the rest of the excursion.
Well, it was a nice thought.
We arrived at the restaurant, were seated and had our orders taken. My mother and grandmother chatted away about things my four year old preschooler brain had no interest in. Their teabags and carafes of hot water arrived and I watched as they dunked the bags and rich clouds of vivid Orange Pekoe swirled into the water.
I was just beginning to tire of watching tea steep when- Hark! the pancakes approacheth! O happy day indeed. A plate descended in front of me, bearing the most beautiful half-dozen silver dollars I had ever seen. I inhaled the sweet steam rising off the plate and let out a blissful sigh. Pure heaven.
I looked to my mother to do her usual duty of cutting the pancakes into bite-size pieces, but she was busy adding milk and sugar to her tea. That was okay. I could be patient. This perfection would be worth the wait.
To distract myself I turned my attention to my grandmother. She was utensils-deep in some sort of omelette monstrosity, peppered with mushrooms and tomatoes and melted cheese, all slathered in hollandaise. I eyed her plate with distaste. The Mini Nut brunch from hell. I wondered what kind of chef could do that to perfectly good eggs in good conscience.
That’s when it happened. The disaster. My grandmother saw me watching her cutting up her own food and asked, “Oh, sweetie, would you like me to cut up your pancakes for you?”
I stared at her in horror. A drop of hollandaise was clinging to the blade of her knife. Oh no, please. Not with that revolting omelette knife.
I tried to be polite. “No thank you, Grandma, I want Mommy to do it.”
My grandmother scoffed. “Nonsense, dear, I’m perfectly capable.”
It’s not you, it’s me. “No really, I want Mommy to.”
My mother looked up from her tea and immediately saw the problem. “Oh no, you’d better let me do it, Mum…” she began.
“Nonsense!” my grandmother exclaimed again, and before my mother could stop her, she had leaned over and swiftly cut one of my pancakes in half, leaving an oozy trail of hollandaise dotted with mushroom and egg bits along the raw edges.
The scream I let out shook the building to its foundations.
Grandma had always been skeptical about just how picky an eater I was. I ate cookies and cakes and pies at her house happily enough. I was well-behaved at family dinners. How bad could possibly I be?
She and everyone else in the restaurant found out that day.
My mother spent the next several minutes batting away hurt remarks from my grandmother (“What’s so wrong with me using my knife to cut her pancakes? Does she think I’m diseased or something?”) and trying to get my voice down to a pitch that wouldn’t cause prolonged hearing damage.
I don’t remember the rest of the meal. I couldn’t tell you if my mother managed to talk me down and convince me that the remaining five pancakes were still edible, or if I just sobbed over them for the rest of brunch in mourning. I do know we cut the rest of the shopping trip short, and I also know my mother finally managed to convince my grandmother that yes, a little bit of egg and creamy sauce was that big of a deal, because every time my grandmother helped me cut my food after that, she was always sure to use clean utensils to do it.
My grandmother died two years later, well before I had taught myself that sauces weren’t the Devil and shepherd’s pie wasn’t the root of all evil. Sometimes I wonder what she would think if she could see me now; going out to Ethiopian and Indian and Mexican restaurants with friends, cooking up stews in our Crock Pot, ordering in pizza and Chinese take-out. Devouring cheesy hollandaise-kissed omelettes of my own.
I can just see her, peering over the edge of her cloud. “All that fuss over a couple of eggs,” she snorts dismissively, and returns to her Bridge game, shaking her head.
Today’s blog post was brought to you by the letter E, the number 6, and the CutMyPancakesAndICutYou Challenge, AKA the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
1 “egg.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 6 April 2015.