Every month here at ChicagoNow, our fearless leader Jimmy Greenfield hosts Blogapalooz-Hour, a communal blogging event in which we receive a topic at 9 p.m. and must publish a blog about that topic at 10 p.m.
I have not done one since November 2013, when I wrote about Chicago’s battle for a level-1 adult trauma center on the Southside.
And really, I planned to let tonight’s Blogapalooz-Hour fly on by, especially once I saw Jimmy’s topic:
“Write about one or more of your food/eating preferences or habits that you or others may find unusual or quirky.”
This was a problem. Because as I once told my family, “My name is Jack, and I am the king of the picky eaters.”
(I also once told them that I “don’t trust soup” because it has things “bobbing in it.”)
I’ve improved over the years, but I did not want to write about the topic on this blog because I felt it was inappropriate for my subject matter, and really I just didn’t want people to know in this particular platform that I used to be able to list every food I would willfully consume on one side of a sheet of paper, including condiments.
When I was about 8, my parents put a photo on the fridge of me from a 2nd grade science class peering into a microscope and wrote beneath it, “Jack inspecting his pizza.”
When I was about 10, I saw a friend at a birthday party at McDonald’s order her cheeseburger “plain”; I proceeded to tell her that “a plain cheeseburger is called a hamburger”; she proceeded to tell me that, “A plain cheeseburger is a cheeseburger without the stuff on it”; I proceeded to grow into a 34-year-old man who orders plain cheeseburgers.
When I was about 12, I learned the word “garnish” by learning that I didn’t want any.
When I was 24, I was out to dinner with a group of my nearest and dearest, and when my head was turned the waitress brought our food and my buddy A.J. spotted the garnish resting on the overturned top bun, so he hid it in his lap under the table. I then applied my ketchup and began to eat and immediately tasted the moistness of the lettuce.
“Ah dammit,” I said, setting the burger down.
“What’s up?” A.J. asked, the rest of the table suspiciously quiet.
“The cooks put all the stuff on and obviously the waitress removed it and then brought it out,” I said. “I wish she’d just replaced the top bun.”
At which point A.J. pulled the garnish from his lap and set it on the table, at which point I suggested we leave.
And then there was that day when I was 30 and ate a carrot for the first time, which I wrote about in this story called “The first carrot.”
By that time I had started making smoothies with baby spinach or kale, and not long after choking down The First Carrot I would every now and again bite into the kale as I placed it in the blender provided no one was around. Not long after, I set three goals:
1. Be able to go to any restaurant and find something to eat, particularly as an invited guest
2. Be able to eat food even if it arrives touching other food
3. Be able to travel internationally without panicking and needing to find a McDonald’s (which I no longer eat in the States, thank you)
I am proud to say that four years later, I have accomplished these goals, which might not seem like a big deal to some of you, but going out with friends and saying, “Actually, I already ate,” or “Will someone remove this pickle for me because I don’t want the juice on my skin” gets tiresome after a while, because people look at you as if you are afraid of a pickle, and then they realize, oh, that’s exactly what’s going on here, and then silence befalls us all.
Those days are over now, and I’ve progressed to the point where I don’t mind discussing it here on a Tribune-hosted journalism-centric blog. Because you have to push yourself.