[by Rick Mereki on Vimeo]
My sister has a rule: she doesn’t eat homemade food given to her from other people until she’s seen their kitchen.
Now, I would have called her paranoid but then I watched the shows “Clean House” and “Hoarders”. The people just seem so normal. The kitchens, not so much.
I used to be an incredibly picky eater. I wasn’t so concerned about the state of the kitchen (until now, that is), I just didn’t have a lot of variation in my diet (or flavor, as Joery says). None of the food on my plate could touch one another — mixing meat and vegetables just didn’t happen. I ate my steaks well-done and never ate anything that came out of the ocean. Or lake. Or any body of water, really. The only meats I touched were either from a pig, a cow, or a chicken, and if it was even the slightest bit game-y I would avoid it. Also, the only spices I knew and used often were salt and pepper. Sometimes garlic.
Since meeting Joery, I’ve relaxed a bit. Travelling and going to college also helped, since it meant being introduced to new foods that went beyond the meat-and-potato dishes of my childhood. I also enjoyed learning how to cook different things. Moving to Belgium was an additional challenge, since the pre-made, frozen dinners of America are not so common (and, perhaps it’s just me, but also not so appetizing), so learning to make things from scratch was necessary.
But now one of my favorite things about going to a new place is tasting the food. I haven’t been to so many places where the palette is radically different from where I grew up, so I’ve eased into it (and I’ll be honest, when it comes to bugs on a stick, I probably would pass). But even though there have been times where I really haven’t liked the food (boterham met Gentse kop, literally a sandwich with meat from the head, at the Gentse Feesten: sorry Joery) or times when the food made me incredibly sick (surprisingly this was the relatively safe choice of lasagna in Aix-en-Provence), more often than not I enjoyed it, even when I was skeptical (sushi/deep-fried mussels/kangaroo/escargot).
During one of my first trips to Belgium, Joery and I were staying at his parents’ house. One day, we came home to see a wooden cage in the driveway. As I walked closer, I noticed that there were pigeons inside.
“Oooh, babes!” I cooed (pun intended). “Look at the birds!”
Joery walked over, took me by the arm and led me away. “That’s dinner,” he said.
Now, I’ve never been introduced to my food while it was still alive. Actually, by the time meat gets to me it no longer looks like an animal, which makes eating it pretty easy (and delicious). So this was new.
We left the house for the afternoon while Joery’s dad prepared the pigeons for cooking. I’m pretty sure Joery planned it that way. I mean, I may be able to forget I saw them walking around their cage. I would not be able to forget watching Joery’s dad kill and pluck them.
If I was borderline vegetarian before, that would have pushed me over.
And if you’re curious, they were alright. A bit tough, but that’s because they were racing pigeons. Apparently, their owner was disappointed in their performance.