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Not While I’m Eating
Living alone, I often eat my meals on a tray while watching CNN or BBC TV. Or perhaps I should say that while I’m eating, I watch the news. Thus I may be eating something tasty while seeing disturbing events like flood damage or the latest homicide, and if it comes on while my fork is half way to my face, somehow it seems less indelicate on my part than if I get up to make a sandwich in the middle of a famine report.
It’s a question of perception, as when two curates discussed whether the priest would allow them to smoke and pray at the same time. After consulting their superior in the Confessional, one came out crestfallen and the other with a smile on his face. They compared notes: “I asked him if it’s alright if I smoke while I’m praying? and he said No,’ said the first. ‘Oh, I asked if it’s alright if I pray while I’m smoking?’ said the second, smiling, ‘and he said Yes.’
But it’s never all right for fellow diners to raise unpleasant topics of conversation while I’m eating. One young woman told me in detail over lunch about her visit to the dentist with toothache and a nasty abscess. She even opened wide and said ‘Ah’. I did not enjoy my lunch.
Teeth seem to be a topic of choice when it comes to mealtime indiscretions. Someone recently described her root canal operation while I was eating fish. I retaliated by describing an operation to correct a gnathic jaw by sawing through the bone while the patient is conscious, and pushing back the lower jaw, but she didn’t even nod before resuming her perorations on a dental theme.
Even driving along the road one’s senses can be assaulted by a doctor’s neon message: ‘Blood in stool’ is one that springs to mind. ‘Colonoscopy’ is another. Does the doctor not envisage when he chooses his advertising themes that people might read them while chomping on a chocolate bar, or sipping a fruit smoothie?
Once or twice I’ve tried putting down my knife and fork (I’m British, so I wield a knife in my right hand and a fork in my left, it makes life so much easier) as a hint to a speaker in full flood about topics that don’t meld with food. They didn’t seem to notice. Please don’t tell me about the chicken manure you lovingly spread on your lettuce bed while I’m eating salad.
I’ve heard graphic tales of childbirth and hemorrhages over my tall skinny latte. Eye operations don’t go well with ice cream. Please don’t mention tapeworms while I’m eating pork. Colonoscopy tales really put me off my sausages. I thought there was nothing offensive you could say about onions until I heard about them mixed with mustard and smeared on the chest as a cure for congested lungs.
I am thinking of inviting a selection of friends who have offended my sensibilities and serving them one of my favorite dishes: fried calamares. And as they sprinkle on the lemon juice and sniff their delicious aroma with anticipation, I’ll explain in detail how I split and gutted the squid, removing the mucky entrails before dipping the rings and tentacles in flour and frying them briskly in olive oil. Whoo-hoo, makes my mouth water, how about yours?
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