It is a winter night somewhere in the late seventies. The family is gathered around the dinner table my mother bought when we moved into our brand new house, white laminate with a leaf pattern running around the edge in gold. The chairs have green metal posts to match the avocado electric stove and avocado fridge. My mother has platinum hair, and she is—without question—the most beautiful woman on our street, though I am equally sure she doesn’t know this.
Anyway. It’s dinner time, and that means everybody has to come to the table, the four of us children assigned our seats because other wise there is a scuffle over who sits where according to the fights fo the day, and my sister Merry is left handed, so her spot has to be the same all the time. Next to my dad.
Ordinarily, I am a good eater, mainly because I’m starving all the time. I walk to school, to my friends’ houses, even to the mall sometimes (8 miles away). It’s more than a mile and a half to my junior high (a closer one is being built to serve this suburb, but it isn’t finished yet), another good hike beyond that to my best friend Kelli’s house. On weekends, the two of us hike up to Austin Bluffs and take our lunches to eat inside the houses being built there (where we imagine how plush our lives would be if we had a fireplace facing both the living room and the kitchen, if we had balconies overlooking the city and the mountains. Probably, we think, they have maids and stuff to help them). I gobble my breakfast of hot cereal, and my school lunch and my after school snacks (an orange or a piece of bread or sometimes—heaven!—my mother has baked something amazing like pumpkin bars and we can have one, very small piece), and by dinner time, I can eat football teams under the table. All of us can.
But not tonight. Tonight, we’re having one of my father’s favorite meals, one my mother cooks every so often, and around the table, the children are very quiet. The overhead fluorescent buzzes faintly, and once in awhile, a fork clanks. My parents are eating cheerfully, but on four plates are four identical pieces of shoe leather.
There is not one single good thing about liver. Not even when I am starving after eating lunch at eleven o’clock and then going to PE and changing classes and walking home through the fields and having an orange to tide me over.
Liver stinks when it’s cooking and it stinks on the plate. It has the texture of a an ancient dog toy, left out in the rain and sun and snow for six years. Cutting it takes effort, and the grain is tight and disgusting, maybe only because I can’t go beyond the smell, but I cannot chew. Can not.
Everybody ought to get one food they can’t stand to eat, but that was not the rule in our house, not in that day and age. You have to eat dinner to get dessert, and trust me, I’m getting that dessert, no matter what it is. All four of us children have devised methods of getting rid of it. Mine is three-fold. First, cut it into tiny, tiny pieces, no larger than a baby asprin, and for the same reason: I swallow it whole and wash it down with red Kool-Aid. Even then, I start gagging after a few minutes, so I surreptiously sweep a few pieces into my napkin, or into my lap and onto the floor for the waiting cats, who weave between our feet, feasting on our leavings.
Since becoming an adult, I have learned to love Brussels sprouts and tolerate mushrooms and will even gag down an egg white if forced, but I have never, and will never, ever, ever eat liver again.
Does anyone actually eat liver any more? Are children still forced to gag it down for the iron?
What’s your worst food ever?
photo yuck by _boris.