In 1992, our son Harrison entered first grade at Redwood Elementary School. A couple weeks later, he brought home the reader We Eat Meat. (I kid you not.)
If you’re a parent, you know the warm pride of listening to your young child read. In this case, I had to press my knuckles to my lips and refrain from making eye contact with my husband Gary so I wouldn’t ruin the moment with laughter as Harrison recited the lines: “Meet Pete. Pete eats meat.”
When our daughter Laine entered Redwood three years later, the book had disappeared. Perhaps it has been banned.
Laine is a vegetarian. Harrison is a meat eater. Is this merely a coincidence or the product of early educational imprinting?
Gary and I are meat eaters. While I fancy I could easily become a vegetarian, he grows faint at the mere thought of two meatless dinners in a row. He’s also of the mind that to eat Mexican, Italian or Chinese food more than once a week is to venture precariously into uncharted epicurean territory.
Gary has suffered from Type 1 diabetes since the age of 12. When he was diagnosed back in the fifties, his physician told him he’d be lucky to live past the age of 40. (Inmates on California’s Death Row have longer life expectancies.)
Gary views each dinner as his possible last meal. Unlike many people, he is void of the luxury of believing a disappointing meal doesn’t matter.
One Saturday evening when Harrison and Laine were home for a visit, we treated ourselves to a meal from Jenny’s Giant Burger. I joined Laine in ordering a veggie burger. Harrison and Gary each requested the giant burger.
In the car on the way home, I snacked on a number of crispy hot French fries (one of my favorite things that I’ve not, till now, confessed to my family). Moments after the food bag was set on the kitchen counter, we attacked it like a pack of starving wolves.
As I choreographed the eating of my meal—bite of burger, one French fry, sip of chocolate shake (one of nature’s most perfect taste combinations)—I marveled at the remarkable deliciousness of my veggie burger.
Half way through his burger, Gary’s face contorted into what looked like a precursor to vomiting. “This burger tastes like crap! It’s the worst burger I’ve ever eaten!”
I peeked under the bun of my sandwich to discover the reason my veggie burger tasted so good. “Oops! Looks like I got yours, Gary.”
You would have thought I’d said, “Oops! Looks like you just ate rat poison.”
Gary fled to the bathroom where I heard him spit out veggie residue. The kids and I rolled our eyes and chuckled.
When he returned to the table, we exchanged the remainder of our burgers. All was well until later that evening when we tried to reach consensus on what might possibly be the last movie Gary would ever watch.
Definitely not Meryl Streep movies.