Friday, August 25, 2006

A Childhood Remembered...

Chez Pim's question of What Weird is Weird is a bit of a thing to make you go hmmmmm.

This question certainly goes along with the 5 Things to eat before you die ... Should you include the weird in with the essential or are they mutually exclusive?

I grew up as one of a very small handful of Jews in a whitebread suburb of Toronto. That didn't mean that life was all gefilte fish (with its salty-sweet jelly) and matzoh ball soup. Our great treat was octopus tentacles from Chinatown - though my younger sister always called them testicles. This might sound fairly normal now, but back in the late sixties and early seventies this was not kosher (in more ways than one). We also ate salted plums in these amazing little flowered packets, squid in their own ink, and all kinds of exotica including trying roasted caterpillars in S.Africa.

My mom is very adventurous and so we were exposed to any number of weird and wonderful foods. I was violently ill after sea cucumbers, but love chicken feet and have eaten krill, just scooped from the sea, that wriggled on their way down. I even remember eating whale way back before the bans - it was strong and musky and rubbery, but that could have been because it was tinned.

Weird was eating Kraft Dinner for the first time at 14 (even though all of my friends grew up on the stuff). Weird was toasted white bread with white sugar and margarine. Normal was clamming at Cape Cod in May and waiting impatiently for mom to get out her Swiss Army knife and shuck those babies so we could suck them back with no lemon, seafood sauce or mignonette to hide the flavour of the briny deep.

Weird was all the things we didn't have, like Tang - the drink of astronauts, and Marshmallow fluff, grape jelly (100% pure sugar and artificial flavour) and Spagetti O's. Normal was crying desperately when the family cooked the lobsters I had just been playing with, and crying again when they didn't leave me anything except the swimming legs to eat.

Weird was TV dinners and jello with RediWip creme. Normal was going across the valley and picking wild black raspberries or eating wild russet apples that were tiny and hard and so sweetly sour that they made the long walk through the woods to get them worth every minute.

Weird was always the word applied to me by my friends, but I think their meaning was someone who wasn't a part of their genetic or inherited culture. Back then they would never have dreamed of eating raw fish, now they exclaim over the salmon sushi they had for dinner last night. But if you offered them ice fish, they would probably roll their eyes up and turn away, muttering to themselves "Yuck, how gross!"

Accepting the weird as normal makes life much more interesting and opens you up to the possibilities that life has to offer.

Oh, and the meaning of the top picture - well, isn't eating raw eggs, rotten grapes and oil a little bit weird?

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