Arsenic and old meatloaf
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.