Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Arsenic and old meatloaf

Arsenic and old meatloaf
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
My boyfriend BG has had a number of near-death and other uber-traumatic experiences. A psycho-shrink almost OD'd him on methadone--twice. He nearly lost a leg to thrombosis after another OD from heroin. He had polio as a child. He got into a rumble with a dangerous psycho in a shelter. Another unhinged old shrink who administered a "painless one-day detox" from methadone promulgated a horrible hellish month of unspeakable horror for both of us. He also broke his coccyx bone after falling down drunk on his barbells. And so on.

But one of the most horrific incidents of BG's life involved the murderous "cooking" techniques of his mother, whose e-coli enriched meatloaf sent him into the hospital several times. He still sometimes wonders if she was deliberately trying to murder him.

Although BG spent many years as a sautee/broiler cook, he did not inherit his knack for cuisine preparation from his mother. When BG was a boy, he endured multiple "food issues." As the second oldest in a family of five, his parents literally struggled to put food on the table. As a growing boy, his mother often chastised him for "eating too much."

BG's typical diet consisted of hot dogs, cereal, soup, apples, powdered skim milk, government cheese, and peanut butter from a huge armly surplus can (his dad was in the air force). TV dinners, steak, and any other food one could think of was reserved for "rich people." Meat was generally frowned upon because of its expense--most of the time.

At age 8, to help out with family expenses, BG had his first job delivering papers. All the proceeds went directly to his mom. BG resorted to sneaking loose change out of his dad's piggy bank jar so he could surreptitiously purchase a few candy bars (for rich people). He is still wracked with guilt over this transgression. Although there was a dearth of substantial food, his parents did "surprise" him at age 11 with an accordion and private lessons. Likewise, since he started sneaking smokes early on, his dad presented him with 2 cartons of Camels for his 13th birthday. Heck, they were cheaper than food.

BG's mom was, and is, a very devout Catholic. Each meal was preceeded by grace. As BG describes it, they went through half the rosary. Thoughts abounded concerning Our Lord dying on the bloody cross following foul cruel tortures to His precious body, which had tasted the exquisite lash of the cat 'o' nine tails. These were the ruminations which went through BG's mind as the family gave thanks for their humble meal.

But almost nothing--save the Passion of the Christ--could compare to the fear and loathing of the Meatloaf Incidents. As BG remembers it, on rare occasions his mom would take some cheap ground chuck out of the freezer and first immerse it in warm water in the sink for 4 or 5 hours to thaw. She would then add her own special touches--some carrots and oatmeal. The result was a greasy concoction that BG recalls as the Meatloaf from Purgatory.

BG's mom would then let the leftover meatloaf sit in a dark oven for two or three days to "keep it warm." When BG was around nine years old, his mom gave him a meatloaf sandwich that had been "aged" in this manner. Being hungry, he ate it, and then was obliged to go mow someone's lawn for three hours in the hot sun (again to help with the household expenses). As he worked, he wound up feeling sicker and sicker; his stomach churning and aching.

Around two AM, he was whisked to the base hospital, where he remained for about 15 days. Although no one seemed to put two and two together (the base hosp wasn't exactly the Mayo Clinic), BG does remember nurses administering multiple shots of what he thinks must have been morphine. Whatever it was, he really looked forward to those shots, and by the time he was released his ass looked like a pincushion. He theorizes that this may be one of the things which predisposed him to seek out codeine and heroin later in life.

Another time, when he was about 14, Mom again fixed him a hearty meatloaf sandwich, "warm" from the oven, to fortify him before he went off to his current job. He started to feel sick, but his mom thought he was just trying to get off work--which at this point involved overseeing the conveyor belt as an assistant night manager at some burger joint. He really had the "knee trembles" that time--doubled over in pain, he nevertheless still had to ride out his shift. I believe this resulted in another trip to the hospital, and yet another failure to connect the dots.

It was only later--much later--that BG considered the thought that maybe his mom was trying to do away with him. I was amazed that no one else in the family went through this kind of stomach blowing experience. But BG says that he thinks his mom used to reserve the tainted sandwiches for him because he was "always hungry" before work.

BG enlisted in the army at 17, during the Vietnam Era. He'd just graduated from high school, and didn't foresee any other realistic option. He figured he'd get drafted anyway, and those who enlist usually got slightly better treatment in the army than draftee "cowards." He couldn't afford to go to college, and didn't want to run to Canada. Because he didn't exactly relish the thought of killing people, his MO was medic. Medics had about the worst life expectancy in the field, because the enemy would try to plow them down first.

Ironically, when BG enlisted, he discovered that army chow was a great improvement over his mom's cooking. In fact, in lean times ahead when he had to eat in soup kitchens or out of garbage cans, this humble cuisine still tasted like a Julia Child smorgasbourd compared to the typical repast offered by dear old mom.

While in basic, BG had to have an emergency appendectomy. I have the sneaking suspicion that this may have been the culminaton of all the multimple food poisonings from days of yore. In any event, while in advanced training, BG broke his arm badly and was given an honorable discharge. Shortly thereafter, he got married and became the youngest manager ever of a fried chicken franchise, which meant that he could at last eat this delicacy, unknown to him in childhood, in abundance. This was the first in a long line of cooking;/food prep jobs for BG.

As with many cooks, I imagine, BG has "seen it all" behind the scenes. This is one of the reasons we almost never eat out. The fanciest we ever get, due in part to BG's thrifty natrure, is a diner. We affectionately call the one in BG's neighborhood The Toilet Bowl. Although it's a roomy neighborhood place with plenty of those neat booths and even the old fashioned jukebox machines at every table, the cleanliness of the bathrooms leaves much to be desired. In one instance, I retired to the ladies room only to find that the toilet seat had been somehow dismantled and flung on the floor.

Subsequently, we took to making up names of possible Toilet Bowl specials. These included mouth watering items such as Tasty Toilet Temptations, which might consist of two eggs over easy with sausage and pancakes--all served on a dirty toilet seat.

In any case, having a cast iron stomach, I almost never got sick from any food in any restaurant, no matter how numerous the potential health code violations might be. But recently, an incident in McDonalds's took me by surprise.

We'd had a long day in Manhattan, and stopped by the Mickie D's on Broadway in the Village for a bite. Since I was hungry, I decided to go for the double meat Big Mac. As was our wont, we took our meal upstairs where it was more secluded, and settled in.

Shortly after finishing my burger, I started to feel quesy. Before I knew it, I was barfing into the McDonald's bags I had on the table (we always got the food to go so we could shlep it upstairs easily). Luckily, the upstairs section was practically deserted at the time. In retrospect, it did seem as if the burgers had probably been sitting awhile under the "warming lamps"--the meat had a film of vaseline-ish grease, and were not hot in the least.

As if in a dream, I suddenly recalled another rare food catastrophe about a year ago, when we went to visit BGs folks out in the hinterlands, and had a family reunion with the BG bros for about a week.

While there, we discovered the wonders of Wal-Mart, and made a pilgrimage to this most wondrous of super stores almost every day. In order to avoid a gastronomical horror show, BG bought a cheap but serviceable BBQ grill, and we purchased the best meat we could buy--Grade A, low fat sirloin steak and hamburger meat, and good cheesewursts. BG's mom prepared the salads, boiled potatoes, and other low-risk accoutrements.

All went well until the final night of our visit. It was just the four of us--BG's parents and me--and BG prepared jumbo burgers. Only problem was that BGs mom insisted that we also cook up some of the "really good meat" she had as well. So BG prepared both batches of meat--although he noticed that his mom's seemed to have some sort of funny white film on it.

I lost out on the burger-roulette wheel--I apparently got one of the good burgers and one of the bad, which also boasted a very questionable odor. The next morning, as we were at the train station waiting to go back to NYC, I started to feel faint. I rushed to the bathroom and had a hideous case of the runs.

Could it have been a nefarious plot to "end it all" for BG and I--sparing his brothers, who had already left town unscathed a few days before? Nah, BG's mom is a really sweet lady and she loves us both....???

Next time we visit, we'll just have to sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night and confiscate any meat products BG's mom may have lying in wait to spring on us. Then, when we sit down to grace, we won't have to pray that we survive yet another of BG's mom's unwholesome, "home cooked" meals.


At 6:36 PM, Blogger Walker said...

BG's mother wouldn't be rekated to Mortitia Adams side of the family by any chance would she.
Fuck that, make me sick once accident, make me sick twice, learn to cook, make me sick 3+ times and I won't be coming to dinner again, NEVER!!!!!!!!
White powder on the meat sounds like rat poison. Have they checked her eyes out, maybe she can't read the labels.
I can't see what her gain would be to rid the two of you.
Hey you think the husband is switching the ingrediences in the packages to get rid of the wife and the horid cooking and making everyone else but her sick instead.
My father was a chef, he is retired now and he always told me one thing.
He said some really horrible things like throwing a steak on the floor and stomping on it to tenderize it because a customer sent it back because it was to tough. Yuck
McD's.Wendys, Burger King,
FUCKEN diarea factories, Everytime I eat there I have the runs. Whats with that, what mad cow meat are they processing and feeding people.
KFC the safe choice right. WRONG how old is the meat and what was left from the previous day that they are serving the first customers that walk through the door.
The drugs, well doctors ar idiots when it comes to drugs.
I was poisoned in an attemted to assasinate me in the 80's. I had gone to the washroom and left my beer unattended. when I came back I finished it and went home where my friend found me dieing on the floor. Arriving DOA at the hospital the quick work of the ER team got me back. A blood test produced enough heroin to kill 10 people in my blood.
The doctors in their infinite wisdom put my on deladin so I wouldn't go into with drawls amd get worse.
Only problem was that I HAVE NEVER DONE HEROIN BEFORE.
3 fucken days they kept me stoned until I got enough strenggth to tell them to stop.
Then I couldn't get an asprin for a headacke.
Cook at home and save the money for a holiday.
Have a nice day. :D

At 7:11 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


LOL right back at you.

So funny that you have so many "touchpoints" (did I just make up a new word?) like your dad being a chef, your heroin OD--and of course your experiences at the fast food emporiums.

Although I consulted BG for this piece, I am beginning to have some remorse for neglecting to say that I adore BG's parents and brothers. They are all quirky but in a very endearing way. I think it was Flaubert who said that all happy families are alike.However, it is the weirdness of even the most happy, "normal" families (and I include some of the vignettes from your family related posts as well) which makes them interesting and universal enough to share with others. It also makes for some great family-oriented sitcoms.

To BLLB: I especially want to apologize ahead of time if any of this seems offensive. I think you know that I hold the BG clan and mom and dad in very high regard.

On the other hand, I would be eager to hear about your viewpoint regarding the family meals.

To Harris Bloom:
I saw your response in my e-mail in box, which automatically sends copies of any comments to the blog. I was surprised to find it did not show up here. I hope you'll return and repost--and let me just say this.

(Switching into nagging Jewish mother guilt-producing mode):

Now Harris, as a scathingly funny writer, I expected more than a quick one-liner. Is this what I get after plugging your work with the utmost admiration and enthusiasm? (links to Harris's work can be found at the Publish and Perish piece--I think Part 1). Plus, you never call, you never write...LOL.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

In reference to my abovementioned message to Hariis Bloom:

When I said "scathingly funny writer," I was referring to Mr. Bloom, not to myself. My syntax can sometimes be shameful.

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Blackie,

No need to apologize for your post-you're family. You should hear the stuff that goes on at S's "get togethers". We have one this w/e on the 16th at a nearby state park.

I'm in charge of recreation for all the kids. Most of them will range from about 2-10 years of age. I'll miss out on most of the adult talk concerning trashing others in the family who did not show up. I'll be monitoring the kids, so I'll skip all the
"ugly juice". (Hope no one pokes out their eye with a yard dart!)

Pertaining to BG's incidents with the meatloaf, I was fortunate never to experience anything like that. Two reasons, 1st-even though St G never was a good cook, I think see didn't understand the pitfalls of "bad meat" early when he and Bunky endured that type food that may have been tainted, I would guess. 2nd-BG always had a very touchy stomach. (Ask him about the trip through N.C. where he had severe stomach pains after eating a peanut butter sandwich. We all had one, but no one else got sick). And, the famous stop at Ho-Jo's restaurant. The poor waitress had to endure the "brats from hell". In ordering our food: BG said, "I want a VOLCANO!!!". Squealer said, "I want a PEPSI". I said "THAT's WHAT I SAID". I'm surprised she served us at all!
(BG will LOL on this story).

I know he doesn't really believe Mother Rosary tried to kill him. But, I'm sure that almost dying from possible food poisoning could make someone think that way at the time. Look, I wasn't there-BG and Bunky were older and dealt with a whole set of problems with St G that Sparky and I did not. (I've never heard Micky talk about this subject-so's the jury's out with him).

I followed in BG's footsteps with a paper route, starting at age 8. I never gave one dime to my folks. I do not know what went on between BG and St G concerning BG "paying his way". Maybe things were more tight with $ before. I wasn't around-I don't know. I saved many $ and had a kid's "passport-type" checking account at a local bank. My dad talked to me about the value of saving at an early age. (Maybe BG never had that talk with him on that subject).

I would only think the younger sibling(s), in a large family, has/have many different type(s) experiences when "comparing notes" about how they were treated by their folks vs older ones. Maybe my folks became better parents by the time they got to me, I don't know. I think I view my childhood differently than BG does. It does not negate his pain, or memory of what happened.

S's aunts sit around and complain about their folks too. I noticed the younger ones have a better recollection of good times than the older ones do. There seems to be a pattern, right?

One thing I do know, BG is right about the meatloaf-it's AWFUL. I used to "load up" on ketchup, mayo, and mustard to hide the flavor of that stuff, making it into a sandwich. Even when S and I vistited a few years ago, she refused to take a 2nd bite of the famous "award winning" stuff. I dug in, with my usual "KMM & ML delight" sandwich-yummy!

I too, like BG, loved military food. I always "hustled" myself down to the base chowhall. It was the highlight of my day. I had a few friends who were cooks-I made sure to get them gifts at X-mas.

You're right "on queue" with the Mc D's story. I've had a bad "blow out" from them also. You roll the dice with your health when biting into one of their sandwiches.

Let's agree our mom is not the "skilled" cook that both BG and Micky are. (I can barely boil water, so I'm not one to throw any stones in this glasshouse). Let's also agree BG (and Bunky) had a rougher ride than Sparky and I did. Does it make my mom a "danger to society"? Maybe, if she plans on cooking for the church in the next "pot-luck" dinner. But, she raised 5 kids, with little help from other family (aunts, uncles, etc). She was alone many years when dad was overseas too.

So, all in all, We 5 "survived" somehow,(she did too). And, I can tell you with Nathan (only one), it's a real "circus' sometimes in raising him. I can't imagine what it would be like in raising five pretty much on your own. (Maybe that's why she got so wrapped up in her religion, but that's a whole 'nother story).

As Tom Harris said, "I'm O.K., You're O. K.". Guess what, we are ALL O.K. (Just the memories scare the B-Jesus out of us, sometimes).


At 12:47 AM, Blogger rob said...

Amazing the experiences we live through and survive. My experiences with 'bad' food have always been the runs, except for the one on a plane where "lunch" was a baloney sandwich, I ate it, was fine, but the following day I woke with a funny feeling of tingling all over my body, it felt as if an electric current were running over my skin. I went to the bathroom and when I was done I turned to leave and in the mirror on the door I saw that my body was covered in welts from head to toe. The Dr. gave me some calamide cream and told me not to expose myself (not THAT kind of expose!) to the sun. After that I became allergic to baloney. Hardest drug Psilocybe in sacred shrooms. Very funny post, although scary, BG's survival makes it sorta ok.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Yes, I guess you must have missed the worst of it, although you know what they say--spare the meatloaf, spoil the child; spoil the meatloaf, poison the child. Or something like that.

Yes, please, let's pray in the closet with the rosary that you moms doesn't become a menace 2 society by cooking something for the potluck church blowout, or there really WILL be a blowout.

Wow, they served you a baloney sandwich on the plane? And then you got a horrible rash? I smell lawsuit! Well, I guess we all survived, with some good stories to tell.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Henry said...

Man, that's some nasty stuff! There is nothing worse than old meat; kind of makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.

You ever try hakarl? Mmm Mmm Good! LOL Uhmm, I don't think so!

The sketch of BG's mom made the wife pee her pants; I was frightened. Dude, is that what your mom really looks like? You don't have a brother named Pink, do you? Seriously, that is a little creepy about the coincidence of you being the only one "treated" to mom's "special" sandwiches. Hmmm

When I worked at the local Food Bank, the warehouse manager told us about another place he worked where the manager had a deal with the kitchen director at a nearby prison. My boss was telling us about meat, bologna, big salamis, etc. that the prison guy was buying. He described a whole rainbow of colors he saw on the meats: Green, blue, orange, purple, yellow. Everything but red! Made me green just to think of it.

When I first saw that sketch and read this tale of queasy cuisine, I could not help but think of this girl I grew up with. Her name is Octavia and her parents were big time UES psycho shrinks. She would tell me these tales of her parents either fighting at the dinner table or totally performing their voodoo shrink magic on her. What I will never forget is her detailed description of how she could literally feel her digestive track cease all activity and the food in her stomach fermenting due to the stress of just having to be in the same room with those two professional mental cases.

Here's the Food Bank maxim: If in doubt, toss it out.

PS: If you live in NYC, stick to Pizza!

At 6:02 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

I looked up the hakrl site you posted a link to--OMG. Rotten shark? Fresh shark makes people vomit up blood, but the spoiled stuff is delish? I don't think so. Isn't there enough food variety without going this far? I guess in the nether regions of the Netherlands or whatever they have to make do--probably no good A&P's nearby. But that shit looks like it should belong to a new basic food group of its own--one that could probably induce chronic bullimia.

BG's mom does look a bit like that--not so scary, though. Yeah, funny about those crazy little coincidences....

Very admirable, working at the Food Bank. Now that's a worthwhile endeavor, for sure. But the rainbow measts you describe--escuse me a minute. Be right back.....OK, I'm back. Just had to go hug the old porcelean throne for a minute there. Ah, feels better. I don't think the dreaded meatloaf had rainbow colors, but it certainly could make you see stars.

Octavia--wow, that is some cool name! But she paid for that name, didn't she, and paid dearly. That sounds like a good idea for a new diet craze--dedicated food counselors pair you up with psycho shrinks who ravage your digestive tract as a result of their rants. Could be a big money maker.

I guess NYC pizza is a pretty good bet. You can see them make it in front of your eyes; it stays fresh because it sells quickly; and it is on every visitor's must eat list. From what I've heard, in many parts of the country, it's hard to find anything other than Pizza Hut or Dominos's. Which are fine, mind you, but for real pizza you gotta be in NYC, where you can also get any topping known to man. But no meatloaf or fermented shark tidbits on my slices, thanks.


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