My Week 23 – Deathly Foods and Weird Signs

Wednesday: I make a list of things that I’ve ingested that made me feel like I was dying

I can often succumb to peer pressure, when it’s about something that’s supposed to be good for my health. For example, I haven’t eaten gluten (well, except for the occasional juicy, wheat-y pizza) for almost two years because someone told me it was better for my joints. It was hard at first—gluten-free baked goods, especially tortilla wraps, can taste a lot like cardboard. Also, everything is made of rice. To be honest, I do feel better for it, and I’ve found alternatives that are almost as good as the real thing. But the other day at work, a colleague was extolling the virtues of Oil of Oregano as a cure-all and preventive for almost everything known to humankind. It can cure the common cold, prevent Montezuma’s Revenge, and apparently turn water into wine. A bunch of us decided that, with super-busy days coming up, and it still being flu season and all, we would troop down to the health food store en masse to buy some of this miraculous elixir. Little did I know what I was in for. I like oregano—I grow it in my garden, and I sprinkle it on pizzas, and use it to season pork tenderloin, among other things. How bad could an oil made from oregano be? The man at the health food store said it was a distilled oil and could be “pretty strong”. Well, I have a hardy constitution—I’ve eaten haggis– so what the hell? The directions said to put one drop under the tongue. I did that. My immediate reaction was, “This isn’t so bad. I—OMFG!!” Then I thought I was GOING TO DIE. My tongue went numb for about 20 seconds, but then the sensation came back, and that was worse, because all I wanted to do at that point was jump up and down yelling, “Ugh! Oh God! Blech!!” Perhaps Oil of Oregano was meant to build one’s character as well as one’s immune system, you know, under that old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? I had always previous thought of that as a metaphor for dealing with nasty people, but if Oil of Oregano was a person, then it would be SATAN. Then it occurred to me that I had been here before, doing that same “Kill Me Now!” dance. So I decided to make a list of the top food type things that I had ever ingested that made me also feel like dying.

1) Gorgonzola cheese. Once, Ken and I were overseas, and the person we were staying with, a wonderful host and one of my favourite people, made us dinner. It was gnocchi tossed in melted gorgonzola cheese. I love gnocchi and the whole thing looked fantastic. Then I took a bite. Some people claim that they quite like gorgonzola—I call these people LIARS. Gorgonzola cheese tastes like mold growing on sweaty socks—the black mold that medical dramas always tell you will kill you. I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t want to be offensive, so I choked down as much as I could stomach, then claimed that jet lag had made me too tired to eat. Jet lag is a good excuse for just about anything, especially avoiding food you don’t want to eat. The other really good excuse for that is “I just had those dilating drops put in my eyes at the optometrist and I can’t see what’s on my plate.” I pulled that one out as a kid to avoid eating veal—don’t tell my mom.

2) Barium. Remember, this is about things I’ve “ingested”, not things I’ve eaten. No one in their right mind would ever willingly want to EAT barium (OK, you could say the same about gorgonzola cheese) but still, barium is like a medical thing not an actual food substance. If you ever have stomach problems, you might have to go for a procedure called a barium swallow. Notice that it’s not called “Olive Garden’s Lunch Special” because the expectation is that you will NOT enjoy it—and no one is going to treat you like family while this procedure is happening. Barium is a mineral or something, and according to Wikipedia, “has a low toxicity”, which means it has more than zero toxicity, so only SLIGHTLY poisonous. But still, if you’ve ever had a barium swallow, it feels like you’re being poisoned. I had to have this procedure done once. The nurse handed me a gigantic glass of what looked like pink chalk pureed with a little water. I looked at it dubiously, and she said, “You have to drink the whole thing. Don’t worry—it’s Strawberry Flavour.” Strawberry Flavour, my ass. Next time, flavour it with a little Drambuie—it’ll still be death in a cup, but I’ll feel better about it. After I had choked and gagged the whole thing down, and my eyes were tearing from the effort, it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how my body was going to get the stuff back out, and I had this horrible feeling that I would never be able to pee again—that it would sit in my bladder for decades, laughing at me.

3) Deep-fried squid. Deep-fried squid actually tastes really good. I had it once at a restaurant where we were having a “sampling” menu. I love sampling menus, because you can try something, and if you hate it, you don’t have to eat any more of it. So I tried the deep-fried squid, (one little piece because it was a French restaurant where I guess they expect you to smoke so much that you aren’t hungry enough for full portions), which came with spicy peanut sauce. It was delicious. It was also, as I found out later, a member of the mollusc family, and I’m allergic to shellfish. After about 20 minutes, my lips started to swell, and on the ride home, I was feeling dizzy and out of breath. By the next morning, I was extremely ill and the inside of my mouth felt like someone had taken a flamethrower to it. I had no idea what was going on, but Ken did some research, and we discovered that there was a good reason why I felt like I was dying–because I just might have, haha. Thank God for tasting menus with very small portions.

4) Eggs that are not scrambled. Eggs are interesting. Essentially, they’re wannabe chickens. I can never understand how people who say they’re vegetarian can eat eggs, but a lot do on the premise that “they were never fertilized”. But aren’t they still animal protein? Anyway, I love scrambled eggs and omelets, anything where the white of the egg and the yellow part are mixed together so you can’t taste either of them separately. Together, they are a heavenly component of the “All Day Breakfast”, one of my favourite meals. Separately, they are like death on a plate. The white part tastes like the sulphurous fires of hell (in other words, like eating a fart), and the yellow part is—well, I don’t know because I’ve never tried the yellow part because its simple appearance is enough to put me off. That liquid-y, slimy thing that some people love to “dip their toast in”. Why the HELL would you dip your toast in a liquid baby chicken? So gross.

5) Extremely sour candies. Isn’t that an oxymoron? What is it with people and extremely sour things? The other day, I was in a store and on the candy display were bags of “Extreme Sour Gummi Bears”. The “i” in gummi was in the shape of a lightning bolt, and the slogan was “Try to eat more than one”. The gummi bears on the bag had FANGS. Where is the pleasure here? Candy is supposed to be a treat, a reward for doing something good, like using the potty. Can you imagine how long kids would be in diapers for if you gave them rewards that made them scream in agony? Depends-Nation. Candy is not supposed to be scary. A couple of months ago, some of my students brought in ‘extreme sour candy’ and challenged me to try one. They were all grimacing and “yuck”ing, but I have more mature taste buds, so I accepted the challenge. Let me tell you, there is no taste in nature like an extreme sour watermelon candy. Within 10 seconds, my extremities went numb and I could no longer feel my face, either inside or out. Very casually though, I plucked it out of my mouth and gently put it in the garbage can. Never let them see you sweat. Or swear.

Friday: Weird signs that I’ve seen (NOT of an apocalyptic nature).

Yesterday, I was in the Bay, and I had to use the ladies’ room. As I was leaving, I noticed a sign on the door that read, “All criminal activity in this bathroom is closely monitored.” I stared at it for a minute or two, trying to figure out exactly what it meant. First, what KIND of activity are we talking about here? The only people I’ve EVER seen in that bathroom are elderly ladies. I mean, the Bay is not exactly Forever 21. Could there be a gang of old toughs who frequently gather in said bathroom to fence their stolen Hudson’s Bay blankets and Estee Lauder cosmetics? And what does “closely monitored” mean? Are there security guards looking at hidden cameras whose reaction to every criminal transaction is “Huh. Take a look at that. Interesting. We’d better keep monitoring this. CLOSELY.” Then I was reminded about another interesting sign that Ken and I had seen the other day. It was one of those mobile signs at the side of the road, and it read, “Jesus said, ‘The only way to my Father is through me.’ My first reaction was this:

Me: Did you see that sign? I don’t believe Jesus said that.
Ken: Whuh? Why not?
Me: Well, don’t you think it sounds a little arrogant? Like, UPPITY? I never think of Jesus like that. You’ve read the Bible. Did Jesus really say that?
Ken: I don’t remember.
Me: No. From what I know about Jesus, he would have said something more like, “It would be really nice and just super if you could let me help you find your way to my Father”. Something non-aggressive, you know. That sign makes it seem like there’s going to be a bar fight, and Jesus is all like, “You’ll have to get through me to get to HIM!” Like Liam Neeson or something.
Ken: OK…

Then I was reminded of my favourite sign from a few years ago, outside a church, which said, “Take Jesus on vacation with you”. Ken and I were planning a trip to Great Wolf Lodge with K, and I went into this reverie about what would happen if you literally COULD take Jesus on vacation with you to the waterpark. Would you have to stop him from trying to baptize the kids in the wave pool? Would all the water in the park automatically become Holy Water? Would he get annoyed if strangers kept splashing him? Would he be like, “OK, I’ll go down the waterslide as long as I don’t get my hair wet? (Because that’s what I always say.) Would he multi-task, and deliver a quick sermon while he was on the white water raft with a bunch of other people? At the end of the day, I could picture him in a lounge chair, surrounded by small children, telling them parables until it was time for Pizza Hut and Pay-Per-View. At any rate, it would be a hell of a lot better than taking Satan on vacation to the waterpark with you. He’d be “that guy”, you know, the one who always does the cannonballs into the pool, gets everyone in a 20 foot radius soaking wet, and laughs like he thinks he’s so cool. He’d hog the Jacuzzi, make all the water boil, then force everyone to take Oil of Oregano. No wonder Satan never gets asked to go anywhere.

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