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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine

Yesterday morning I attended a conference on a topic closely related to what I do for a living.  It was informative and allowed me to mingle with colleagues from my field.  And perhaps most important, there was a very respectable spread of food laid out for the attendees to graze on before the event and during breaks.

Right off the bat I paid a token visit to the Cru de te platter for some carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes.  Being married to a clairvoyant, I've found that it pays to get some healthy food under my belt early on so Zahava isn't tempted to SMS me mid-buffet with an omniscient "are you really going to eat that?" text message.   But once I'd paid my respects to the pointy end of the food pyramid, I began fressing in earnest on warm mushroom and potato Bourekas... smoked salmon on toast... and various other yummy finger foods that aren't specified in any one diet plan that I've ever heard of.

About two thirds of the way through the conference I became aware of a small 'disturbance in the force', so to speak.  It began as a rumbling in the pit of my stomach and progressed to some uncharacteristic gassy burps and small twinges and pings from my upper GI tract.

Within fifteen minutes the speaker began fading to a droning, buzzing background noise and all I could hear was the crescendo of a gastric Philip Glass composition.  A could feel beads of perspiration breaking out on my forehead and cheeks, my lips and tongue felt slightly numb... and I suddenly began salivating like some sort of Pavlovian party trick.

I won't burden you with any further details concerning events that I'm sure most of you have experienced for yourselves at one time or another.  Suffice it to say that I missed the last hour of the conference and made more than one 'pit stop' during the drive home.

Under normal circumstances I would have passed on dinner, crawled into bed and allowed 12 - 14 hours of blessed unconsciousness to do its restorative magic on my poisoned... or, more correctly 'poisson'ed my system, since it was likely the salmon on toast that did me in. 

However, our entire family was invited out for Sheva Brachot (a festive dinner for the bride and groom during the week following their wedding) in Beit Shemesh.  So shortly after arriving home, I had to pack the family into the car and we headed out to a meal that I didn't want to even imagine, much less experience up close and personal.

When we arrived at the home of the family that was hosting the dinner party, the place was packed with extra tables and chairs to accommodate the many friends and family attending, I was pleased to see that we knew most of the people there.  At least if I got sick it would be among friends.

The father of the groom is a talented chef and has been a caterer for many years, so he had volunteered to prepare all the food for the dinner.  But even though I usually enjoy his cooking, all I could think about was how to to avoid eating without giving offense.

The first course was a hearty split pea soup that looked and smelled wonderful.  I took a few tentative spoonfuls to test the waters but almost immediately got a wire from the engine room saying that taking on more fuel would be ill-advised.

Then the entree was served; baked salmon with a mustard sauce, wrapped in a blanket of philo dough. I'm sure that if I was of sound mind and body it would have smelled and looked tantalizing.  But something about the way my olfactory system was processing the new input made me want to bolt for the bathroom.

Just as I was getting ready to make my move, Yonah came over to me and said, "Abba, can I sit in your lap so I can talk into your ear?"  No matter how many times we tell Yonah that he should really just ask 'Can I tell you a secret?' he insists on this unique request.  Maybe he's translating an expression from Hebrew... who knows?

Anyway, the last thing I wanted was to have a heavy four-year-old standing (OK, sitting) between me and a fast exit.  But before I could say no, Yonah had already climbed up into my lap.  So as the smell of baked fish and mustard wafted over me and my stomach continued to do slow flip-flops, I took Yonah's angelic face in my hands and asked "What?  What was so important that you had to 'talk into abba's ear' right this very second?"

He looked up at me, and with perfect sincerity said,"that food smells like Kaki".

Zahava, who was sitting next to me chatting with someone across the table, turned around quickly when she heard me start laughing out loud.  I couldn't help it.  Yonah had given the perfect label to what had been assaulting my senses.  It may be that to healthy grown-ups, expertly prepared salmon with mustard in a light, fluffy phylo dough is a delight for all the senses.  But to a 4 year old boy... and to a food-poisoned adult... it smelled exactly like 'kaki'.

Maybe it was having been able to finally put a name to what had been troubling me... or maybe it was simply the natural medicine of laughter.  But the result was that by the time the hot apple crumble à la mode was brought out and passed around, I was feeling up to sharing a small portion with Yonah.

Posted by David Bogner on March 5, 2008 | Permalink


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"...the crescendo of a gastric Philip Glass composition..."


Posted by: psachya | Mar 5, 2008 5:55:55 PM

Leave it to the little ones to put your thoughts into words.


Posted by: Jesse | Mar 5, 2008 6:01:25 PM

How cute IS that boy???!! Oh man, that made me laugh out loud, as I could so hear him saying it. TOO cute.

Oh yeah, hope you're feeling better...

Posted by: Val | Mar 5, 2008 6:17:40 PM

"Kids say the damndest things." - Art Linkletter

This post made me howl...because we've all been there. And you surely do know how to turn a phrase. I'll never be able to listen to Philip Glass again in quite the same way...

Posted by: Elisson | Mar 5, 2008 7:06:04 PM

Wow---you sure are lucky that Yonah was able to screen that remark and "talk into your ear". Now you know what a woman feels like for the first few months of pregnancy.

Posted by: Noa | Mar 5, 2008 7:25:09 PM

Wow---you sure are lucky that Yonah was able to screen that remark and "talk into your ear". Now you know what a woman feels like for the first few months of pregnancy.

Posted by: Noa | Mar 5, 2008 7:25:15 PM

That's how I feel about fish the overwhelming majority of the time. And when my mother starts cooking gefilte fish... I'm out of there. Can't stand the smell even when I'm healthy.

Posted by: Irina | Mar 5, 2008 11:42:47 PM

Yonah never ceases to amuse. That is a great story. Hope you're feeling better. It may take a while to be able to stomach salmon again.

Noa - totally agreed. I have been able to get back into fish lately but when I was pregnant with my oldest, the last meal I cooked before the nausea descended on me for months was a teriyaki-type salmon. Those associations really stick, so much so that when I was pregnant with my middle child, I had to leave a restaurant for a few minutes to get some fresh air when someone at a neighboring table ordered . . teriyaki salmon.

Posted by: RaggedyMom | Mar 6, 2008 2:14:56 AM

Sounds like you had too many crudites to me David - stick to the good stuff next time....


Posted by: Gilly | Mar 6, 2008 3:41:49 AM

Good for Yonah
No matter how many times we tell Yonah that he should really just ask 'Can I tell you a secret?'
Secrets are for keeping, not for telling and he knows that!

Posted by: asher | Mar 6, 2008 10:36:15 AM

Do you realize that "talented chef" may ACTUALLY READ THIS - luckily for you he has a great sense of humor :)

Posted by: Yeshara | Mar 6, 2008 4:42:32 PM

nice Philip Glass touch... me; I'd a gone with John Cage...

one of the reasons I got married was that, for some reason (a couple of childhood surgeries, perhaps) I have a damped sense of smell and taste, and consequently, in my collidge years, feel lucky that I only poisoned myself twice. I even had a rule-of-thumb when visiting the parents: "if the cat won't eat it, you shouldn't, either."

interestingly, and perhaps poignantly, my wife is a "super smeller," and it is like living with someone with superpowers at times.

Perhaps you should tote Yonah around with you as your personal taster? ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Mar 9, 2008 7:10:00 PM

Yonah's request reminds me of our own youngest's coined phrase, "I want to tell you a question," which has gained currency in our family. Of course, it sounds better if a small boy is whispering it, LOUDLY, directly onto your tympanic membrane. ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Mar 9, 2008 7:12:38 PM

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