Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fewer things to kill me

If you believe everything my mother tells you, then you'll know she has no moral issue with endangering your life for the sake of 10 minutes of pleasure, or however long it takes to eat her spaghetti.

At the family table, it was everyone for their respective self. We didn't say grace, but my mother occasionally kicked off mealtime by announcing the possibility of death, advised us to be vigilant and, smiling, encouraged us to dig in and enjoy.

According to my mother, the bay leaf – a spice known for its distinctive fragrance and flavour – is both essential to any good spaghetti sauce and entirely capable of slicing your intestines with its razor sharp edges and causing internal bleeding.

Pigging out on Mom's meat sauce, I surmised as a child, could result in anything from indigestion to dying quietly in your sleep. This I believed, among other questionable, unquestioned quasi-truths:

Jesus is a white guy. Raw hot dogs will give me worms. Uncle So-and-So isn't gay. My face could get stuck like this. Bay leaves can kill me. Me, and everyone I love.

Having survived my childhood, I thought it best to avoid cooking with bay leaves altogether when I moved out on my own. I just couldn't bear the thought of my mother receiving news that, despite all her warnings, I'd gone and accidentally offed myself in that particularly unsavoury way. Not until I cooked with someone unaware of the risks of this common albeit deadly ingredient was I forced to, for the first time, express these thoughts out loud.

"Let's leave out the bay leaf," I suggested, explaining the risks.

"Who told you THAT?" my co-chef asked, scrunching up his face.

"My mother," I declared, considering her the authority on all things culinary.

"Doesn't she also think her house is haunted?"

"Well, yeah," I said, "but so do I."

He just looked at me. "Bay leaves can't kill you."

"Yes, they can," I said, steadfast.

Leaves in hand, locking his eyes with mine, he motioned toward his mouth.

"Don't do it!" I yelled, and tried to grab them away. The last thing I need is an accidental suicide in my house, I thought. "No!" I screamed when he shoved them into his mouth and began to chew.

"Why would your mother put something in your food she thought might kill you?" he asked. He was talking with his mouth full.

Because my mother takes cooking very seriously.

"If I die, you win," he taunted and swallowed.

Later on, when he didn't die, he didn't shut up about it for long enough that I kind of maybe sort of wished he had. Just a little bit.

Still, through the fog of my annoyance, I managed to glean that sometimes being wrong is best for everyone.

Photo: Mom and me on an evening walk, after another perilous meal.


I'm Kate... said...

When he scrunched his face at your comment, you should have told him, "...and your face will stay like that!" :)

Cute story. I hope its not true....? I usually just pick out the bay leaves, thinking they were garnish that accidentally slid into the sauce. ha! I tend to like salad separate from the main course... :)

i am playing outside said...

this blog makes me smile. it brings me joy. you have a wonderful way with words. you make the smallest stories lively. thank you :)

wyliekat said...

I don't use bay in my spagetti, but I do cook with it regularly. I don't fear for my life, but I do feel a compulsive need to sift them out before I serve any meal.

Prairie neurotic vs. Atlantic neurotic. ;-P

Ace C said...

Lol. Think that every parent has some of those crazy stories, remedies, or self advice that doesn't account for anything. It's how you take and deal with it that makes life just a little bit better.

Kate Savage said...

Kate - Oh, if only his face HAD stayed like that! If only...

i am playing outside - THANKS! That's some pretty high praise. Thanks so much. That said, I might argue that this was no small event in my kitchen. Someone could have DIED! :P

Wyliekat - No kidding! Now that I'm over my fear of bay leaves, I can concentrate on worrying about choking on fish bones!

Ace C - No doubt! I'm just waiting for Mom to call me and say something about this post...

Amanda said...

Loved this story! And you know, I can totally see why your Mom would think a bay leaf could do damage. They're sharp little fuckers!

pistols at dawn said...

You truly live life on the edge, miss. What's next, running with safety scissors?

Kate Savage said...

Amanda - Yeah they are! No wonder housewives in the old days resorted to poison. Death by bay leaf is far too cruel!

pistols - You think *I'm* hard!? You should meet my mom.