Thursday, January 15, 2009
A Food Memory for Dan
It was the year of the recurring earache, the year of the pink fluoride tablets, the year of the rental A-Frame, the year of hiding under the stairs, the year of wheat germ sneaked into morning cereal. It was also the year of the Not-to-Be-Forgotten Liver Dinner. Liver and onions. My father and mother enjoyed liver, and my sister and I, both young (I was seven and she was ten), hadn’t really had the opportunity to try it yet. While I played post office under the stairs or tidied my box house in the loft, my mother was working her secret machinations with liver in the kitchen. I wasn’t aware of it, and didn’t recognize the smell. When my father got home from work, we all sat down at the dinner table. Dad was probably tired, and really looking forward to the not-meatloaf, not-spaghetti meal. My memory is a little hazy here, and the story has been told a bunch of times. It’s one of those perennial family favorites, told with joyful gusto to every newcomer to our clan. The meal was served. I think I winced. I must have made a face, or grunted. I was told to try it anyway. I balked. The liver smelled funny. It was covered with wormy onions. My father’s face reddened. All he wanted was to enjoy a good meal, and his shaggy-haired second grader was ruining it. “Enough, Jenny. Try it.” I pierced a piece with my fork and put the liver to my lips. My sister suggested the “hold your breath” technique, which fueled dad’s furor. Holding my breath didn’t work. I could still taste and smell the liver’s metallic tinge, and I gagged. Then I cried. My crying made my sister cry. The sight of us crying, her frustrated husband, and all the hard work and preparation that went into a meal all gone to hell in a handbasket, made my mother cry. There were all of my father’s girls, crying in front of plates full of cold liver. I don’t remember if dad finished his meal. I know I didn’t.