Can a man live on Fruity Pebbles alone? I’m about to find out
I never knew my grandfather, Charles Williamson, but from what I can gather, I inherited his finicky table habits.
Stories about Grandpa Charlie are worth their weight in gold — especially about his service in World War II, of which he so rarely talked about.
Stories abound of guys plucking souvenirs off of dead German soldiers — a knife here, a Luger there, maybe even an SS belt buckle.
But the other day, I learned that, of all the things Charlie could have plundered off a bad guy’s corpse during the war in Europe, he was quick to snatch a compartmented lunch tray.
I know, right?
Charlie, it would seem, hated Army life, especially at chow time — the way the cooks would slop food on the trays meant everything ran together.
I remember hearing a similar story from my dad, Marc, who served in the Air Force during Vietnam.
As a kid — not unlike my own kid today — I was obsessed with joining the Air Force.
After I’d asked my dad everything I could think to ask about what kinds of jets he’d seen, I moved on to what kind of food I could expect to eat as a young airman (a peculiar line of questioning for a peculiar child).
He spoke of something he called “(expletive) on a shingle,” which was basically toast with some sort of brown goop on top.
I remember thinking, “I wonder if I could just get plain toast?”
The uncertainty of whether or not I could request plain toast — coupled with the fact that I couldn’t, and still can’t, do a chin-up — made me rethink a career in the military.
But in Charlie’s case, a finicky eater is still a finicky eater, even in the fog of war.
He didn’t like his food to touch.
I don’t either (if that’s not already obvious).
So, he apparently carried around this dead German’s divided lunch tray all through the war.
I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing, although I might have passed altogether for the sole reason that it was a dead guy’s lunch tray — unless, of course, another dead guy had a stash of antibacterial wipes.
My wife, Amy, frequently complains about how hard it is to cook for such a picky eater.
When our son was born in 2008, she urged me to man up — she would be making all manner of gross stuff, she basically informed me, and would need me to set a good example for our son.
She was putting the smack down: Our son wouldn’t be allowed to follow my example and eat Cap’n Crunch for supper.
In reality, I’m no more of a man now than I was six years ago.
In fact, my son has been led to believe that Dad is allergic to so much that he’s just lucky to be alive and not living in a plastic bubble.
For me, there’s no greater hell than a banquet — an event in which you sit down and make awkward small talk as you nervously await for a plate to land in front of you, not knowing ahead of time what’s going to be on the plate.
I’m always reminded of that scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” when they’re served eyeball soup and chilled monkey brains.
I try to avoid banquets as much as possible for just that very reason, but the annual Greene County Chamber dinner, which was held Monday, remains unavoidable.
This year at the Elks Lodge, I was pleasantly surprised when I was given a plate containing pork roast (sans any sort of goop), carrots, a baked potato and a roll.
“This is the kind of bland meal I can get behind!” I happily thought as I looked around for any uneaten rolls.
The only thing I didn’t eat, come to think of it, was the salad.
When the little bowls of salad were distributed, I was caught off guard and didn’t have time to say, “Oh, no thank you, I’m allergic to anything green.”
So there it sat.
I looked around the room. Everyone was clearly enjoying the salad.
I’ve been a finicky eater for so long that I’m used to sitting there awkwardly as everyone else enjoys their meal. But for some reason, something this year told me to just cave to peer pressure and eat the thing.
“OK,” I thought, “I can do this.
“But there’s no way I’m putting dressing on it.”
So I picked up my fork and started nibbling on plain lettuce.
As strange as it might have looked for me to just sit there and watch people eat, the sight of me eating greens like a donkey was probably even goofier.
“Look at that McGinn guy,” I could hear people whispering. “He’s just eating that lettuce like a goat.”
Knowing my Grandpa Charlie was once a member of that same Elks Lodge and probably at some point choked something down within those same walls provided me with my only sense of relief.