The Omnivore’s Angst

Food. It's what's for dinner.

Days per week my daughter is excited about what I’ve made for dinner: 2

Days per week I cook dinner: 6 (not a great ratio, I’ll admit)

“Normal,” non-bug-oriented foods I won’t eat: 3

* Disclaimer: I am actually a very kind person.

So there we were, ambling around Glastonbury, a town in England frozen in the 1960s, full of dreadlocks and long skirts and chick peas.

“I need a burger,” my brother-in-law who has visited Glastonbury numerous times kept repeating. “Where is a place that sells burgers?”

At 2 p.m. after being stuck in a nightmare fun park called Wooky Hole, trying to escape arcade games and fun-house mirrors, then driving to a town rife with King Arthur lore I should have loved but couldn’t concentrate on because of the rumbling in my stomach, I would have eaten raw squid topped with beets.

We walked past cafe after cafe, mean words barely held back in my brain. My adult/parent/daughter-in-law/sister-in-law good behavior was holding on by a string akin to cooked angel-hair pasta.

Look around, I wanted to say to my brother-in-law. These are people who shun meat. Can we please get a veggie pot pie and move on?

As my 4- and 6-year-old kids clung to my hands, their energy draining away so they could barely maintain verticality, I also wanted to say mean things to the people nearby who were happy and grain-fed.

Baths are fun, I wanted to say. But also, I was considering, Jimi Hendrix is dead! Dead, people!

I did not scare any flower children that day, and my own children continued to prop me up until we wandered into an eatery proclaiming, “Burgers!” on its hand-written sign.

We ordered. I sat and looked grumpy.

And maybe the sign forgot to mention: they were veggie burgers. My brother-in-law was not a happy camper. But because the rest of us were gnawing the table legs, he choked it down.

I used to be a picky eater. too. My mom cooked me separate meals until I was six, and then she said, “This is for the birds. Eat it or don’t.” Mostly, I didn’t. I don’t remember being especially hungry, and not eating whatever it was had little effect on me one way or the other.

Then I went to camp.

It was the summer after 4th grade, and my friends were going to Girl Scout camp in the north Georgia mountains. (Something people don’t tell you about the north Georgia mountains, but which I figured out after several trips up there is: it rains. Like, all the time.)

Camp food, like most institutional food, wasn’t so great. I’d never been away from home for more than one meal at a time, and I spent mealtime hoarding my roll and listening to my stomach making loud growling noises that made other kids frightened of me. I wrote my mom and dad letters saying things like, “They are serving us canned green beans” that my parents found hilarious and framed.

When I got home, I started eating and never stopped. My legs grew four inches that summer, and my taste buds did, too. Things got a lot easier for me after that.

Years later, in cooking for family and friends, we have dealt with gluten-free, vegetarian, veggie haters, people who won’t eat seafood, people who only eat chicken or seafood and Atkins diet folks.

I am now on an Anne Diet kick. I want you to come visit and let me cook for you. But I will be cooking to no specific diet. All foods are on the table, and you may eat them or not. Here are my current food thoughts:

1. Cheese. Two of our neighbors don’t eat cheese. I don’t mean they have cut it out because it has too much fat. I mean, they don’t like cheese. I was not aware that people like this existed in the world.

Sadly, I could lose half my body weight on cutting out cheese alone. I am particularly fond of blue, brie, havarti, goat, farmer’s, feta, gorgonzola, cheddar, monterey jack, asiago, mozzarella, parmesan and pretty much any other cheese. Probably, if you eat at my house, there will be cheese.

2. Vegetables. I’m not sure why many men, especially, are veggie-haters. I have yet to meet a vegetable I don’t like. There will be vegetables at our table. Like, always. Except for

3. Beets. Beets are evil and must be destroyed.

4. Protein. At our house, there will be all manner of seafood, red meat, pork, chicken, legumes and nuts. Just try to stop me. (Except for those with nut allergies. I will keep all nuts away from our kitchen if you come to visit.)

5. Gluten. If you have a medical condition, I will eliminate gluten. I am not interested in making someone ill. If you are simply anti-Cracklin Oat Bran (gasp!), I will have to open up the box and ask you to try a piece. It’s addictive.

6. Butter. We use Brummel & Brown as our spread, but you can’t beat (small amounts of) butter for cooking or baking. Let’s not denigrate a true hero, people.

7. Fruits. It’s true that I have to force myself to get enough fruit in my diet. I eat a lot of dried fruit in the winter (in trail mix, especially) and fresher fruits, like pineapple and peaches, in the summer. If you are very, very good, I will make you my Grandma Ann’s Apple Pie. I am still waiting for research to prove that fruit in a pie is more nutritionally sound than plain old fruit. Still waiting.

8. Tomatoes. I won’t get into the whole “Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?” paradox with you. But fruit, vegetable, or small, round animal, there is nothing like a homegrown, fresh-off-the-vine tomato. Nothing. I will also allow myself to enjoy the canned variety but draw the line at 14 tomato-laden meals per week.

Please write and tell me your weird food stuff. Are you a foodie? What is your kryptonite? What do you hate?