A while back my friend Jen from Under the Table was promoting an event called “It’s Not You, It’s Me: Stories from the Dark Side of Dating”. She asked some of her food loving friends to contribute their disastrous food-related dates…my submission unfolds as follows in a story from 2001 that I like to call: Turkey: 1, Mormon Boyfriend: 0.
Bringing your new boyfriend home to meet the parents is always a bit stressful…especially when said boyfriend is of the Mormon faith and your parents are of the faith where herpes, safe sex and religion in the Middle East are liberally discussed at dinner (maybe even at breakfast if the coffee is just right). Apart from anticipating the rousing and explicitly vulgar games of charades my family usually plays after dinner, I thought our first meal together would be a fairly stress free affair. Food is the ultimate common ground, right? When conversation runs dry, terse words have been depleted and my sister’s insults hit a lull, you can always turn to the stand by “mmmm, this is sooo good. How DID you make it?”
For our inaugural supper together as family of four plus one religious outlier, my mother had luckily forgone the usual trial-by-fire Danish Eating Extravaganza which usually includes, but is not limited to: pickled herring, liverpaste, mackeral, ryebread, pork and lots of it and last, but hopefully-not-on-the-menu least, lard spread with bacon bits in it. Instead she opted for a all-American favorite of roast turkey complete with mashed potatoes, gravy and all the fixings fit to make a pilgrim weep in starvation-induced appreciation. And weep the new boyfriend did. Well, not technically (and not ’til later), but by the rate at which he scarfed whole hocks of fowl and poured gravy straight into his gullet, you would have thought he’d grown up in a family with 18 siblings that had to fight like honey badgers for every morsel on the table.
The meal was going well, turkey was being imbibed, we were all feeling sleepy when suddenly, the boyfriend leapt from the table and made a mad dash down the hallway. Maybe his days of dating a sinner were finally catching up to him. Maybe he was being punished for overindulgence (really, who needs that much gravy?). Maybe my mom had slipped his turkey portion a roofie and he had a bad reaction. WHO KNOWS. The next thing we heard was the sound of slop being projectile vomited a tragic 3 feet from the nearest toilet.
We all rushed to the scene, my sister snickering in glee. The evening’s feast lay at our feet in a slightly less enticing presentation than before, the boyfriend hunched over his belongings in shame. She promptly nicknamed the poor lad “mutant elf” and filed away this incident in her mental file cabinet so it could be produced in the future for years to come (mostly at inopportune times in front of subsequent boyfriends who then developed complexes about which nickname she would give them should they misstep).
The rest of the visit went by uneventfully and the Mormon boyfriend and I dated for a few more months before he went off on his mission. We ended things peacefully, without cursing, throwing of special underwear or drinking caffeinated beverages. In the months following I met a man who drank beer with relish, thought organized religion was for the birds and willingly downed pickled herring with style. Maybe, if a man can’t hold his turkey, it just wasn’t meant to be.