The terror of navigating a school cafeteria does not necessarily leave you at 39 years old, I discovered. If you skip to the ending of this conversation, then you will still not know whether or not someone nice sat by me or not. But you will hear some interesting observations on ham and vegetables from a fascinating figure, and one of my favourite new people I've met this year.
I pulled out my carrots and Dave's Killer Blues Bread veggie sandwich and began chewing nervously. A shadow, then a second, then a third flitted across my table and then the swarm surrounded me. Two across, one next to me. A total of three partial-humans crowding in on my lunch table. I estimated their ages varying wildly from six to seven.
They ignored me initially, for which I uttered a silent thanks. The boy across from me began pulling out his lunch. I have never eaten at a Michelin-rated restaurant, but I would imagine that a gourmet being seated at a Friday night dinner after a three-month wait would not begin to approach his culinary repast with any less anticipation, salivation, or enthusiasm than this person.
He carefully held the bulging plastic sandwich baggie with both hands, turning it around gently, examining the piece of edible art, breath quickening. I watched white and yellow squish together inside as he slowly began unzipping the loc. He carefully folded the top back around the sandwich, and leaned in to take a first bite.
Drops of mayonnaise and mustard danced their way out of the bread slices and gracefully decorated his cheeks as he, with a deep sigh of contentment, engorged the first bite. One rebel globule tangoed its way down his shirt. He looked over at me. Aaaah!
I LOVE ham sandwiches.
I said, improvising quickly.
I love them so much.
Sometimes I love them so much I eat two.
You must really like ham.
kindly letting a wet ham-mayo crumb escape his mouth and parachute to the floor, possibly to be recovered later.
You know what I love even more?
and internally slapped myself, realising the likelihood I was wrong could be high.
he said calmly.
I'm allergic to peas.
So what do you like more than ham?
What I love,
he announced, delicately chewing so as to give me a glimpse of what was happening to the delicacy being ground to bolus between his teeth.
Bacon is SO GOOD.
Do you like bacon?
he asked, respectfully opening his mouth enough to let me get a Durrer-detail level visual of what ham looks like being vivisected by incisors.
I am actually,
I'm allergic to gluten.
I also like sausage.
I asked, choosing my words carefully.
...like any foods that were not once animals?
What about peanut butter?
No, I'm allergic to peanut butter.
he said, inserting a finger carefully down his pharynx to help guide food particles in the right direction.
he said, carefully wiping his finger on his napkin, which also doubled as a shirt.
I'm allergic to broccoli.
What about carrots, or salads, or corn, or -
he said, gesturing with his mustard hands.
I'm allergic to those.
You're allergic to all those foods?
I'm allergic to vegetables.
So you don't like bacon?
he asked, giving me one last peek at a piece playing hide-and-seek around his teeth before settling down to the back of his throat, and then popping back to the front, where it escaped disembowelment by sliding down his neck and coming to rest just underneath his collar.
I'm vegetarian, so bacon is kind of not a big part of my diet. At all, actually.
he pronounced, as he fisted the last morsels into his mouth,
is that you''ve probably never had MOUTHWATERING bacon.
Oh, is that different than regular bacon?
The mouthwatering kind is the best kind.
It has been a pleasure talking about about food with you. I appreciate your enthusiasm for a wide variety of, umm, meats. Enjoy the rest of your lunch!
Sometimes I like to have two ham sandwiches.
I'm going to recess now.
And that's what I did.