Aging and Culinary Degeneration

There lived a man I called Opa. He, like Mean Yogurt, fancied himself wise. And wise perhaps he was. He was also, when I knew him, bitter and old and lonely and sweet in a bizarre way. He judged game show contestants on some scale known only to him and wished upon them such maladies as falling from stages and breaking legs. This is not what I wish to tell you about, however.

I will share with you the adventures I had while living with him during my abbreviated tenure at a community college in the vicinity of his home. He enjoyed cooking me breakfast. I found this endearing until I realized that every morning he cooked oatmeal. I enjoy oatmeal on occasion with the key phrase being on occasion. It certainly didn’t help that he added raisins. Hot raisins are one of my least appreciated foods. A couple of weeks passed and I learned to suppress my nature and eat the oatmeal anyway. One morning I shumbled to the kitchen to face our morning tradition and found that there were no small black lumps in my oatmeal! I picked up my spoon as my heart prepared to burst forth in rapturous melody! I dropped a dollop of what Opa called Oleo and I called margarine on top and dipped my spoon in to distribute the substance evenly throughout the cereal. As I stirred I learned that at the bottom of the bowl were many large black lumps that came to the surface and revealed their identity as prunes. This was bad, worse than the raisins, but it had nothing on orange oatmeal day. I remember the surface being quite flat and really rather noticeably orange. As I sat down I began formulating a plan to avoid what had been so lovingly crafted and generously placed before me. As luck would have it, the situation resolved itself. Opa went dig out a bite of his own oatmeal and had much trouble causing the spoon to penetrate the surface of the glop. When it finally did it became stuck and the cut it made in the oats reminded me of the way bread pudding sometimes looks when you scrape a bit from the mass. His attempt to extract his spoon resulted in the entire portion of cereal lifting free of the bowl and clinging, quite non-precariously, to his utensil. I seem to remember the bowl being left quite clean, almost as if it hadn’t mere moments ago held the vile concoction. He silently replaced his bowl shaped oatmeal block into his bowl shaped bowl. He stood and, still silent, removed both bowls to the sink where he graciously rid our lives of their contents into the disposal. He then stated quite matter-of-factly “I like to experiment with food. This one only cost me a few cents.”

“What did you put in it?” I asked with genuine curiosity.

By way of reply he simply held aloft a canister of a popular brand of powdered fiber supplement.

If you think the breakfast was bad, I shall now regale you with tales of dinner. Opa had the habit of walking, on a nearly daily basis, to the senior citizen center for lunch. (A meal which, thankfully, I partook of outside of his home.) At dinner time one evening he pried it out of me that I could stand to ingest some food. He bade me sit and began to prepare a plate. He started by removing a pint size milk carton from the refrigerator. From my vantage point I was unable to ascertain that the thing had been opened before he pulled it from the fridge. When he upended it over my plate there came sliding out a partially eaten slice of what most cafeterias refer to as roast beef. It splatted onto the ceramic followed shortly thereafter by a few drops of brown gravy that splashed very disturbingly onto the “meat”. He sat and watched me eat every bite. I thank God that that even though it was only partially eaten before I got my turn, the largest portion had been Opa’s.

Another horrid thing he tried to feed me was “soup”. It consisted of a light cooking oil broth into which he added partially devoured chicken tenders, apple slices, a can of peaches, craisins, onions and other assorted detritus. When he served it the oil he had boiled the stuff in was still popping with heat. He stared at his creation with an expression akin to that Dr. Frankenstein must’ve worn when he made the discovery that “It’s alive!” Again he silently cleared away the dishes laden with his untouched vittles and sat at the table with both hands propping his chin. He stated in quite a downtrodden tone of voice “I’m not as good a cook as your grandmother was.” I very silently and whole-heartedly concurred.

I bid you Adieu and a don’t.

Adieu…cherish any Opa you may have in your life. Mine was a World War II veteran and I consider myself eternally in his debt.

A don’t…be afraid to seek out other means of sustenance if ever faced with such culinary presentations. Just be sure to compliment your chef by bringing him a take out meal of his own. He likely is as dissatisfied with his cooking as you are.

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