Archive for May 23rd, 2008

Olives, I prefer the ones with pits. Not California, but the real ones, the ones that haven’t been sanitized for an American audience.

Olives, of the twisted-gnarly-tree variety, and I love olive trees, too, they can live to well over a thousand years. I saw the olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, and who knows whose hands have touched that trunk. Trunk upon trunk, so thick, so multilayered, it recalls patterns. Rows of headstones, rings of water from a drop. A cumulus cloud tucked inside another inside another.

Mom is picky, Dad eats anything. Where did they get their sensibilities when it comes to food, and did I get mine from them?

Texture is my main care. Don’t like most shellfish, don’t like the thought of calamari. I like the taste, and I’ve had good calamari, good shrimp, but the thought of what I’m eating, tentacles, and that string of shrimp vein you have to take out before you cook it. That thought lodges in the back of my left lobe, and it’s as if it’s in my throat, that thought.

I used to hate steak, and even now I can’t look at my meat as I cut it. I can’t stare down a chicken wing, veins and corpuscles bother me.

My girls love chile, and I have to think that if you don’t make a big deal out of certain foods, kids won’t either. “Your girls eat chile?!” people tell me, and I don’t mean a spoonful, they love burritos smothered in red.

Olives. I love the color, olive green. I love the texture of an olive, how it’s like a meat, but the kind of meat I wish real meat could be.

Have you ever seen people who mix all their foods on their plates? I once saw a woman who wouldn’t let her mashed potatoes touch her salad greens. She was not into gravy.

Last night I ate a salad to die for, mixed greens tossed in a lemon-anchovy dressing, grated Parmesan and grilled asparagus on top.

Good food, food prepared well, is a blessing, a rainbow, a mist, sunlight after dark clouds, a primrose at evening. Good food, food prepared with a present mind, loving intention, none of it tastes bad, and I can put aside my food eccentricities for a well-cooked meal.

My favorite foods are strong, not bland. Thai anything, spicy tuna rolls, good red chile, pickled-with-vinegar. I wonder what my cravings say about my yin and yang. Surely one of them is out of whack.


-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – OLIVES

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I’m not a big fan of olives. The historical and biblical references to the olive are more engaging to me than the food itself. I don’t like stinky cheese either. And what about pickle juice? I don’t drink it. But it’s the secret ingredient in my potato salad. I make it the Southern way: lots of mayo (in my case Miracle Whip), celery, eggs, pickles, salt, pepper, oregano, sage, and whatever other spices I grab from the rack. And then, that ½ cup (give or take a little) of sweet pickle juice.

I’ve noticed that sweet is a basic theme in Southern cooking. At least the Southern cooking I grew up on. I had barbecue ribs from Missouri last weekend at a writing retreat. They were delicious. But the one thing I noticed is that they weren’t as sweet as the tangy-sweet sauce I find on the ribs when I go Down South. And in the South, pork is the other white meat. Pork barbecue is a staple.

I wonder what it is about sweet and the South? Why are the foods and drinks laced with sugar? I’m a sugar fan, even though it’s not supposed to be that good for you. When I am eating healthier, I don’t consume as much sugar. But I always allow for it in my diet, lest I feel deprived. The sugar in sweet pickle juice is what makes potato salad sing.

I don’t like the raw onions in German potato salad. Or the way the taste is dull and lifeless to the palate. I like a little zing. One writer last weekend said she used to eat raw onions, just like eating an apple. I can’t stand them. They give me indigestion. I do like them cooked in spaghetti sauce, or any kind of red sauce. I don’t like mushrooms. Too rubbery. Maybe it’s texture that drives food likes and dislikes.

Back to olives. I have strayed. I only remember them edging our plates at Holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were not staples of our diet growing up. At the Holidays there was always a relish tray filled with celery, sweet pickles, deviled eggs (which I love and have on occasion added a bit of pickle juice to the filling), sliced carrots, pickled beets, and radishes. The variety added color and spice to the family feast.

I wish I could say I ate a lot of vegetables but they seem seasonal to me. I crave vegetables in the Spring and Summer. Fall I like baked squash. Winters, I go for hot and heavy stews.

We had a discussion last weekend about peanut butter. It came later in the night (when the silence was lifted), after we had done a 10 minute morning write on Everything I Know About Peanut Butter. I think I was the one that threw the Writing Topic into the bowl. We all scribbled down Topics on ripped strips of paper, folded them, and dropped them into the bowl. At the end of the retreat, we were reminiscing about all the Topics we didn’t get to write about.

Peanut butter, I like the Skippy Super Crunch, Lowfat, with lots of chunks of nuts. Others preferred health food peanut butter or only smooth. I was amazed at the different tastes people had when it came to peanut butter varieties. We used to have peanut butter and banana and mayo sandwiches as kids. I liked them. But my younger brothers liked them more. It seems like a strange combination. But try it sometime. The vinegar in the mayo mixes just right with the sweetness of banana. And then the peanut butter glues the whole thing together.

I don’t like any of the foods on the strange list in this Topic. No fake banana. No prune juice. No black licorice. No SPAM. People are shocked when I say I don’t like guacamole. It seems like everyone likes guacamole. What’s so special about the meat of a dense, lime green, tasteless tropical fruit like the pear-shaped avocado, mashed up into a dip with raw onions? The texture and taste do not appeal to my sensibilities. I’m never going to get it.

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, May 23rd, 2008

-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – OLIVES

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