Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Potato Salad Story

No one ever believes me when I say that I hate potatoes.

Aside #1: Except for French fries. Those don't count.

Mashed, diced, baked, it doesn't matter. I absolutely despise them. Not because of how they taste, or feel (as I so commonly tell people), but because I had a...traumatic experience involving them when I was around 9 years old.

My mother, stepdad and I had all sat down to eat dinner. I can't be sure as to what the main course was, but it doesn't matter. Amongst the two or three side-dishes that were sitting on the table, I saw one that I'd never tried before. It was potato salad, and my mother told me that I'd have to at least try it before I was to be excused from dinner. Not a big deal, right?

Wrong. After finishing everything else on my plate, the ominous, lumpy "salad" still remained. Using my fork, I cut a corner off of one of the potato chunks before putting it into my mouth. Almost instantly, I felt my throat close as my gullet simply refused to accept the food that was being shoveled down it. I spit it out into my napkin before being scolded by my parents for what had just happened. My mother, never missing a chance to make me feel guilty for even the tiniest thing, put her hand over her mouth dramatically and claimed that she had "lost her appetite." After she left the table, I was left to face my stepdad, someone I didn't know too well at the time.

Aside #2: He had married my mom less than two years earlier.

I didn't know it at the time, but I would soon discover that he was a very hard-headed individual. One that clearly didn't consider my choked-on slice of potato to be a "true bite."

Aside #3: If my life story ever becomes a sitcom, I'd love to have clearly exaggerated version of kid-me sketch out a diagram on a napkin of what should be considered a "true bite" in relativity to the mass of the object being bitten vs. the mass of the actual bite. Genius kids always get good ratings.

After unsuccessfully trying to coerce me into eating more (something I think anyone would refuse to do, given the situation), he began to get frustrated with me, telling me that I was absolutely forbidden to leave the table until I had eaten a single chunk of potato. Matching his stubbornness, convinced that the potato "bite" in question had nearly killed me, I continued my single-food strike until well after he'd left the table, minutes ticking by on the oven clock across the kitchen.

Soon, a few hours had passed. I kept sitting, refusing to budge until I either died of starvation or they were forced to let me get up. Suddenly, it was well past midnight, and both of my parents were asleep. Laying my head down on the table next to my plate, I fell asleep.

The next morning, I woke up with the sun. My mother was already up, brewing her usual pot of coffee. After seeing that I'd woken up, she walked over to me.

"Did you sleep here the entire ni-"

Her words were cut off as thick, white vomit spewed from my mouth and nose, all over the mostly-empty plate sitting in front of me. Rushing over to comfort me, my mother began to mop up my vomit with a dish towel after telling me that she was going to make me some chicken nuggets after I'd gone to the bathroom to clean myself up.

Aside #4: I've never really thought about it before, but I find it funny that my mom had no issue with seeing me vomit, but had a huge issue with me spitting out a tiny piece of potato that I hadn't even chewed once. Also, it should be noted that she made me chicken nuggets an such an early hour because normal breakfast food would have likely upset my stomach even more.

Standing up and walking down the hallway, my stomach felt empty. My kidneys ached from lack of urination. I could barely hold my head up. But I had won. For the first time in my life, I stood up for something I believed in, and never backed down for a second. Every argument or fight I've ever won, every time I've defended anything I believed in has stemmed from this one moment of pure, unabashed victory.

But as I mentioned earlier, winning came with a price. I have never, ever eaten potatoes in any sort of raw form in the ten-plus years since. I've tried, but I simply can't do it.

I guess there is just something deep, deep within me, buried in the back of my head, near all of my primal instincts and central programming that refuses to let the silent assassins known as potatoes make another attempt at my life.

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