CHARLOTTE, NC: Let’s face it, I’m a picky eater. Always have been, always will be. Before and during ALS. I confess that I do enjoy watching cooking shows on television and trying to figure out how a chef can destroy a perfectly good recipe just before he dives into his culinary creation as if it’s the greatest dish ever baked, broiled, boiled or fried.
In my case, I have to admit that most of my apprehension is derived from texture more than taste. For example, I will eat almost anything that has the flavor of tomatoes; salsa, tomato bisque, pizza, V-8, bloody Mary’s. Especially the bloody Mary’s.
However, the idea of ever taking a huge bite out of tomato makes me cringe.
I tried a BLT – bacon, lettuce, and tomato – sandwich once in my life. Once was all it took.
I have the same problem with those little shards of pulp in orange juice. They actually make me shiver.
Onions are similar. French onion soup with croutons and cheese on top that is so temperature hot it will burn the roof of your mouth if you’re not careful is a real treat. But for me, French onion soup is a broth-only proposition.
All of those leftover strands of onion at the bottom of the bowl are wasted on me, which means I only get a half portion whenever I choose that particular appetizer.
Fruits and berries have always been a problem for my unsophisticated palate.
Here again, when it comes to cherries, the texture gets me every time. It’s so bad that I won’t eat strawberries either. Why? Because for me a strawberry is nothing more than a cherry with five o’clock shadow.
By the same token, a raspberry is nothing other than a cherry with terminal acne.
Apples, bananas, and cantaloupe, with an extremely rare honorable mention to watermelon, are the only members of the fruit, berry, melon category that pass muster for me.
Fishy fish, such as strong salmon, is another listing that quickly falls by the wayside.
That said, fish is a strange food group for me in many ways. Mild fish that is baked, broiled or fried is difficult to beat; flounder, cod, Dover sole, and pompano always get my interest.
Scallops with lots of garlic and butter make my mouth water just thinking about them. The same is true of shrimp, however, my absolute favorite food in the whole world is full-bellied New England fried clams.
Oddly enough, full-bellied clams typically go against my aversion to slimy foods such as oysters and the like. The same is true of mussels, which, like clams, break with my usual reluctance at devouring most types of shellfish.
Do they full-bellied fried clams in heaven
For those who have never experienced full-bellied fried clams, the taste difference between those and the more familiar clam strips, which are pretty much available anywhere in the country, is that the highly perishable bellies contain all the flavor.
On the other hand, when a clam is steamed, it takes on a completely different persona which is a game-changer for me. Fried, yes! Steamed, no! Don’t ask me why.
One thing I have never been able to understand about ordering food in a restaurant is why the chef insists on adding things to a dish that is not listed on the menu.
Order a burger and unless you say “ketchup only” you’ll probably also get lettuce, tomato and maybe even mayonnaise whether you want them or not.
Even McDonald’s assumes every customer wants ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions on a burger. To get it without takes longer. Just call it “slow-fast” food.
The ironic thing is that if you order a cheeseburger the server will, more often than not ask, “Do you want cheese on that?”
To which the obvious answer is, “Yes, because if you don’t put ‘cheese’ on it, then it’s a HAMBURGER!”
When I moved to the south in 1955, I ordered a hot dog one Friday night while I was watching an old-time dirt track stock car race. One bite told me immediately that I had to quickly adapt to my new surroundings.
Had I ordered the wiener back “home” it would have come with the frank in a bun and maybe a little mustard.
Instead, I got a hot dog that was hidden somewhere beneath layers of mustard, ketchup, chili, relish, and slaw. It was basically inedible.
Other than my love for Ipswich fried clams, the only food that escapes my taste over texture rule is jalapeno peppers. Not that jalapenos beat the rap on texture so much as I give them a pass because of the spicy flavor they add to my food.
So how does all of this relate to ALS?
Well as the disease progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to eat and to swallow certain foods. Corn on the cob ranks a close second to full-bellied clams for me. Truth is, it’s been three years since I’ve eaten corn on the cob, and I have resigned myself to the idea that an ear of corn may just now be a memory.
Scraping it off the cob into a little pile of kernels on a plate just isn’t the same.
It won’t be long before everything I eat will go directly through a tube into my stomach. For one with a limited range on the culinary scene, that’s not a day I cherish.
So my philosophical question for the day is “Do they have full-bellied fried clams in heaven?”
Because if they don’t, then isn’t that hell?
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News
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Lead Image: Full Bellied Clams from Main Fish Market Restaurant