• Cynthia Dagnal-Myron

Gimme an order of deep fried fish sperm with a little ant salt on the side...

So here I am in Seattle helping my daughter after the birth of her first child.

And things are not going according to plan.

At this very moment baby, daughter and I are sitting in an extended stay hotel because the washing machine in their apartment had a few faulty parts and, therefore, created a lake in my daughter's apartment and a waterfall down the walls of the apartment below.

Yep, after enduring an emergency "c-section" only about two weeks ago and having to recover from that and get used to the madness of "first motherhood," my daughter had to pack up all the stuff it takes to do that "first motherhood" thing with a newborn...and run.

Yesterday, I went back the apartment to deal with the "clean up crew" hired by the apartment managers. Managers who had, by the way, initially insisted that the house was still "livable" at first, even for a two-week old baby, despite the incessant roaring of an assortment of HUGE fans and dehumidifiers and a temperature of 85 degrees plus in the "affected area" which was MOST of the apartment.

You see, water damage like that can lead to mold. Black mold. So sometimes drywall has to removed, floors torn up and all painstakingly dried and then rebuilt. It's a major undertaking.

So new daddy stayed behind to oversee the demolition and keep the managers honest. But bu he had other important stuff to do yesterday, so I was there sweating in the one fully habitable room.

With the puppies. And the kitty. And a big TV and no baby to burp or anything else to distract me from the extreme heat and deafening noise.

So...I watched some food shows on Hulu--close captioned, since I couldn't hear anyone speaking. Over the past few months, while desperately searching for something to watch other than the shit show the whole impeachment debacle has become, I've found that I like food shows.

Especially the contest ones. You know. The ones where people try to build life-size replicas of the leaning tower of Pisa out of gingerbread and gummy bears or something.

But this time, I watched a documentary about one of the many "best restaurants in the world." Which featured an owner/chef who took us on long drives to all these exotic places looking for new flavor sensations with which to thrill customers who flew thousands of miles to eat stuff that frankly mostly scared the shit out of me.

But boy, does he have customers. As filming began, there were over 58,000 of them on a waiting list to eat at an experimental Japanese version of his original restaurant in Amsterdam.

I'm...not entirely sure I know why. I gotta be honest.

But I hung in there watching him walk through forests, picking up the slimiest mushrooms I've ever seen in my life, chomping on ants, sucking on leaves and leaf stems and branches. Even finally filling his van with one particular type of branch that had a flavor he thought he might like to use in some way.

He searches the world for these flavors. And some of the people in the places he searches find him...somewhat puzzling. At one hot house in Japan a perplexed gardener kept asking him if he really wanted the not yet ripe "white" strawberries he'd asked for.

And when one of the chef's assistants tried to explain that the chef not only liked unripened strawberries but preferred the ones right smack between unripe and juuuust about to start ripening, the gardener shook his head and flatly informed him,"Well here, we don't eat that."

The assistant looked rattled. The bubble he lives in, burst by a sharp stare.

I almost felt sorry for the guy.

I mean, I got nothin' against white strawberries. Or shrimp with ants on top--a real menu item I swear. Or a dish featuring deep fried fish sperm, the only creation deemed worthy of being considered for the menu out of offerings by daring disciples.

Chef explained that if we pictured it as "fish and chips," the idea of eating deep fried fish sperm might not be so off putting.

Didn't work for me, though. Like most of the artistic offerings I watched people literally tweezer together, each component placed just so, the placement of each tiny pea or flower petal had to be perfect.

But I couldn't feel any of it, pretty as it all was.

And as I sat there sweltering in a far less perfect world...in a fit of self-righteous reverse snobbism, I declared that nothing they could serve at a place like that could thrill me more than a slice of my mother's southern style sweet potato pie. Or a big old bowlful of her deviled egg potato salad.

Or hold a candle to my Hopi mother-in-law's sinfully simple hominy stew. Or the gumbo one of our neighbors back in Sweet Home Chicago used to make that looked like it'd been dredged up from the bottom of a Louisiana swamp somewhere. Shellfish swimming 'round in a muddy but luscious broth I've never seen or tasted the likes of again.

Or the succulent deep fried shrimp--sans ants--at a legendary Southside rib shack called Whites so good I had white friends who would ride the "El" train all the way from the suburbs to buy a big old bag full. What they battered those shrimp with I will never know, but they were more precious than gold to us.

Way better, I'd wager, than the snapping turtles I refused to watch one chef teach a bunch of other chefs how to murder and butcher on camera.

Course...mother-in-law had to butcher a sheep to get that big old backbone she made her hominy stew with. And all those swamp creatures in my neighbor's gumbo were alive once. White's shrimp, too. And the hogs and cows they got their equally delicious ribs from.

Murdered, all. For our enjoyment.

I do get that.

I got something else, too, just a I was riding my high horse. Somewhere in the middle of the movie, I watched the chef cuddle and then joyfully sling his own little bundle of joy over his shoulder as she squealed.

Arms dangling down daddy's back, slapping daddy's butt, she was as comfy in that world-renowned restaurant as she was on her daddy's shoulder.

That...told me something about the man who ran that restaurant. Something way more important than the deep fried fish sperm he was about to spring on all those private jet owning patrons of his.

I get the feeling he's just playing with his food the way he plays with his daughter. Trying things this way and that, just wanting to serve something that makes people's eyes light up the way hers do when she sees him.

I still ain't eatin' no fish sperm, son. But I will now defend your right to serve it to anyone who might.

Because you love your baby like I love my baby and her baby. And your restaurant is your baby, too. I see you, chef.

May never see you or your ant salt in person, of course. Alas--no private jet. Sigh.

And I will never completely forgive y'all for beheading those snapping turtles.

But I needed to spend some time in that playpen of a restaurant with you anyway.

Play on, playa...


P.S.: Did you like the read? Go to the RANDOM home page, scroll down and SUBSCRIBE. Got MUGS, too...

16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All