Barbara Zumwalt - So many meals, so little time...

So many meals, so little time ... My most memorable, let's see, there are so many ...

Like the time I was travelling in Israel. We were in Jerusalem the week before Passover, but during Passover we were traveling in largely Jewish-controlled areas. There was no bread. Only matzos. The last night of our trip was the sundown that marked the end of Passover.  There was dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv. We were dancing in our hotel rooms, excited about the prospect of leavened bread on the morrow. But at breakfast, only matzos. No ingredients could be in the buildings until after Passoveróand no stores were open thenóso we ate what was on hand. Then we went to the airport. Even airplane foodówith leavened breadówould be a treat. But when we got our airplane food, we got matzos. Seems the plane had been loaded the night before. Every time I see matzos I think of that trip.

Or the time I was in Denmark (passing through to Norway) and had exchanged only a limited amount of money. I was in the Copenhagen train station and was hungry. It was late, and the store was closed.  So I went to a stand. They sold hamburgers (yuck, I thought, I'm in Denmark), Sushi (in Copenhagen? I gasped) and several Danish specialty sandwiches. I could afford the cheapest. The bread was delicious, but the ham inside (could I really go wrong with Danish ham, I had thought) was mostly gristle: pig back, I think it was, complete with skin. It was crunchy, felt funny on my tongue, and tasted awful. Next time, I thought, I'll get the hamburger.

Or the time I was visiting my brother in Japan. I was learning the art of using chop sticks, and the family with whom we were staying kindly made two things available to me: Western cutlery and plain (non-lacquered) chopsticks. I used the chopsticks daily and was getting, I thought, pretty good. Then some friends of my brother's invited us over for a traditional Japanese meal. My brother, fluent in Japanese, was studying at Tokyo University. To make money on the side he tutored people in English. This young doctor and his wife were two students. We went over, and, as is Japanese custom, they had the finest of everything for their guests: fine lacquered (i.e. slippery) chopsticks and fine Edo-period (i.e. slimy) food. I was attempting to eat as the Japanese do. We were eating shrimp, which were to be taken from a communal bowl, dunked in a communal bowl of slimy sauce, then taken to the individual's rice bowl and eaten with rice. I took a small shrimp (not being fond of shrimp or slimy sauce), dunked it, and ... it slipped out of my chopsticks into the sauce. I reached in to get it and ... it slipped again. And again. And again. Finally, my brother reached in with his chopsticks, grabbed it (now completely slathered in the slime), and placed it on my rice. A few minutes later, Mrs. Endo turned to me and said, "You use chopsticks very well." It was sweet.

But my favorite food story involves me, pizza and my cat. She likes everything. I had ordered a Hawaiian pizza on this particular night.  And I shared some with Rover. I figured she would like the ham. (She did.) And I knew she'd like the cheese. (Of course she did.) To tease her, I offered a small piece of pineapple. To my surprise, she ate it.  I laughed. At the end of the meal, I had one piece of pizza left and had it sitting on my dining table. Later, I noticed Rover coming down from the table. She's been at my pizza, I thought. I looked at the pizza and couldn't believe my eyes. She left the ham and cheese (not to mention the crust), but darned if she hadn't eaten every piece of pineapple!

For those living in earthquake country:

When I still lived in California, I had an earthquake preparedness kit.  It contained all the usual stuff: spare underwear, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, a good book, emergency cook stove, etc. It also contained canned food.

I decided that, while changing my canned food to keep it fresh, it would be a good idea to take those cans to the canned-food receptacle at my church (which gave them to the Long Beach rescue mission). That way, I always had fresh canned food (I cycled my cans twice a year), and the mission got a two-week supply (for one person) of canned food twice a year. It's a good way to help out others less fortunate while helping yourself. And, for those who only do good things if they can write them off on taxes, it's a way to get Uncle Sam to finance (or at least let you deduct expenses) your self-help kit!

Barbara Zumwalt,

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