There are many descriptions that could be listed under the heading “Michelle.” Bibliophile. Shoe-collector. Nail polish aficionado. List-maker. Obsessive-planner. And the list goes on…But there is one label that I try to hide a bit more than the others, although at some point in my relationships with friend and colleagues it becomes glaringly obvious, regardless of the steps I take to mask it.
I eat like a five-year old. My preferred diet consists of cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets and pizza. Throw a plain (meat and bun) burger in there and I’m still good to go. Try to add condiments or spice it up in any way and I’ll probably just pick at it until I can get home and have a bowl of cereal instead.
Thad, since discovering this trait on about, oh, our third date, has been my stealthy food accomplice. There is no way to tally up the number of times I’ve covertly transferred food from my plate to his in an attempt to make others think I’ve eaten and enjoyed the meal provided. When we were living in China last time, it was on a fairly regular basis that we were invited to attend banquets, usually hosted by our college. Whenever they had leaders visiting, it looked good to trot out the foreigners, so off we went to these meals that went on for hours, starting with a series of cold dishes being served, then moving on to a lengthy set of hot dishes, then complimented with either bowls of noodles or rice and finally, bless the heavens, finally, the giant dish of fruit which signified that the feast was coming to a close. These dinners, while a bit tedious in nature, were glorious for Thad. He had his fill of the best and fanciest foods offered in our small Gansu town. Not only did he get to enjoy his share of the goodness, but he got mine was well! To keep up the appearance of loving every minute of this gigantic meals provided by our college and with important Party folks present, I helped myself to various dishes throughout the evening. Then, when conversation turned to the next round of drinks or topics that were beyond my grasp on the language (which was quite often), I surreptitiously chopstick-ed my bowl of random food items into Thad’s bowl, where he could enjoy my pickings.
The reason the picky-eating issue comes up is that last night Thad and I went out to dinner. For Christmas, my best friend Shannon gave us a gift card to Chili’s and we happen to have one just a few blocks up the road from our place, which makes it quite convenient in our car-less existence here in Washington DC. (Not only is the Chili’s just a few blocks away, but on a breezy night like last night, when the wind is cutting right through layers of clothing, the fact that we could get within a couple hundred yards of the restaurant through the underground labyrinth connected to our mo-partment building was a built-in bonus!)
With gift card in hand, off to Chili’s we went. Upon arrival and perusal of the menu, we decided that the 2 for $20 deal was the way to go. We ordered the chips and corn/guacamole appetizer (I enjoyed the chips. No dip for me, thanks.) and then I had the six ounce steak with mashed potatoes and rice and Thad had some super sizzling chicken fajitas. We enjoyed a nice dinner in a restaurant that was not only fairly quiet for a Saturday night, but also a decent temperature. (I don’t know why restaurants, summer or winter, keep their thermostats so low. Does cold make people hungrier so they order more food? All it makes me want to do is eat quickly and get out of there!)
As we were wrapping up dinner, our waiter, an older gentleman named Wayne, came back to collect the dishes. Thad had cleared his plate completely, leaving nothing more than a few stray peppers and fajita juice on his skillet. I, on the other hand, in true fashion, had eaten only part of my steak. (I ate the middle part, which was good. I just don’t like the edges of most foods. I always eat the inner parts of things like steak and pork chops, provided they are boneless. The pointy ends of things like bananas and green beans freak me out and are also avoided whenever possible. Ends are just weird.) There was also still a significant portion of the potatoes and rice on my plate when Wayne was clearing off the table. At first, he offered concern that I hadn’t liked my meal, but when I assured his that I had and that I had eaten what I wanted of it, he gave me a look that had me worried. I seriously thought for a split second that this man was going to go into “mom-mode” and not let me leave the table until I had cleaned my plate! Thad, across the table, was trying to hold in his laughter and I received a pointed, stern, motherly look from the waiter about my eating habits.
I can’t help that I am a picky-eater, but I do realize that it is an oddity in someone my age. I do my best to conceal the grape jelly Uncrustable that I eat for lunch eat day at the Foreign Service Institute while my colleagues dine on sushi and I try not to let my taste buds dictate where we go to dinner with friends. (Hey, almost everywhere has a kids menu with chicken strips that I can order!) Picky-eating is just another part of the world of Michelle.
Now, who wants a bowl of Cheerios for lunch?