Lima beans are lutefisk of the bean world

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Column: Tales from Exit 22

When it comes to food, we’re all on the frontline.

The first time I ate chicken fingers, the question mark over my head was visible for miles. I had no idea chickens had fingers.

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As I watched a family member carving the ham while one person reminded him that he was doing it improperly and another lectured him on the benefits of vegetarianism, a lifetime of meals flashed before my eyes.

I once dined at a fried chicken shack advertising the best legs in town. The waitress told me that the sign referred to her and not the chicken. She said that the most fattening part of any meal is the silverware and that fingers were here before forks. I ate the chicken with my fingers for fear of incurring a 15-yard penalty for improper silverware usage. A fellow diner named Rufus told me that each of his family meals was like the Watergate hearings. People don’t always get along during meals. I asked Rufus if watching his mother and father at the meal table taught him anything. Rufus replied, “Yup. To never get married.”

I was a picky eater when I was a lad. A king had a royal food taster. I wanted one of those. I didn’t want him to just taste things; I wanted him to eat most of them. I wanted to eat nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and breakfast cereal. I’d build a barrier of cereal boxes around my place at the table. Plenty of good reading on those boxes. I knew how much riboflavin I was getting in my diet. I was determined to avoid all foods that were suspect. I wanted to establish autonomy. There is no food critic like a kid. Meals become whining and dining. An entire meal of cookies makes perfect sense to a child. Some people are obsessed with eating foods. Others are obsessed with not eating. I had third grade classmates who had never been seen eating any part of a meal.

My mother reasoned with me, telling me the importance of a balanced diet. When all was said and done, there was a lot more said than done. We had leftovers without ever having the original meal. If survival of the fitness holds true, some of the leftovers were in unbelievably good shape. Mother abandoned any hopes of me joining the Clean Plate Club. She wanted me to become a member of the Eat Your Lima Beans Club. That made for an awkward meal of cringeworthy food.

My father loved lima beans. He’d smother them with pepper and grin like a goat eating thistles while he chowed down. My mother would feed me lima beans and have the audacity to expect me to eat them. Lima beans! Come on! My life flashed before my eyes. She asked me to consider all the starving children in China. I considered them. I’d offer to mail the lima beans to China. I’d stare at the odious lima beans with loathing. I’d try to wish them away. My dog was of no help. She didn’t like lima beans (butterbeans) anymore than I did. I was sincere in my desire to eat the beans, but lacking in effort. Mom reminded me to eat my vegetables so that I would grow up to be someone who would eat my vegetables. Some kids are genetically programmed to avoid eating vegetables. They hate vegetables for no other reason than they are “icky and yucky.” I ate most vegetables, but I didn’t like lima beans. They are the lutefisk of the bean world.

Mothers become short order cooks trying to get each child to eat. If mothers can’t get you to eat things like lima beans, they rely on subterfuge. Mothers attempt to sneak food that is good for their children into the youngsters’ diets. They resort to treachery by slipping the stuff into casseroles or hot dishes.

Each child comes to the table with an agenda. Some food tumbles from the plate accidentally on purpose. Eating too much. Not eating enough. Eating too slow. Eating too fast. Spilling. Talking with mouth full. They’re not food fights. They’re feuds over foods. It causes fathers to bury their faces in their hands and make their eyebrows look like a long, frustrated caterpillar.

Tastes changes. One day, yucky foods aren’t so icky.

Don’t worry, moms, one day, your kids will brag to others, especially their spouses, as to how good a cook you were.

I solved the lima beans problem by spilling them on my lap. I’d rather wear lima beans than eat them.

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.