Disclaimer: Mom was not a bad cook. I loved her fried chicken. Her dumplings could give Emeril a run for his money. Red beans and rice with pork chops? Excellent. I had problems only on those occasions where she had meat loaf or liver on the menu. And as an added touch of irony, I actually savor the taste of French-style green beans today.
I looked down at the platter in front of me. The sum all of my afternoon fears since I had arrived home from school that day was now staring back up at me. Liver and onions, with a side order of French-style green beans, mocking me from the small round plate that featured friendly blue flowers along its rim.
It had nothing to do with whether or not I was actually hungry; it seems as though I always was at that age. It was the synopsis of the meal mom had prepared. The cruel liver, mingled with bitter onions and thick gravy always managed to bring out my best gag reflex at the time. The French-style green beans served to enhance that digestive feature - and added muscle to it. Mom fixed our plates, allowing me no chance to limit the portions or bypass altogether the unsavory features of the meal. (None for me, thanks!) But then again, when you are ten years old, the world is not always fair. I cautiously shared a secretive glance with my little brother, and saw that he was having the same reaction. In mom’s kitchen, a clean plate was a happy plate, and one of her children not so inclined to accomplish that task was sure to become a target for her unrefined ire not long afterward.
At that dire moment, I looked for Poco, our poodle, thinking if I could somehow manage to sneak him my cut of liver, half of the dinner battle would be won. Good old Poco, ever faithful and to my rescue. With a practiced stealth, I lightly slapped my leg to garner his attention, and wagging a mere bob of a tail he came over by my feet under the chair, hidden from my mother’s ever watchful eyes. I stole a quick glance around the dinner table, faked putting the sordid meat on my fork, and as mom made conversation with dad and my older sister, I swiftly ‘dropped’ the nasty victual onto the floor in front of him. There was a moment of sheer panic as I (secretively) watched him sniff the offering because a part of me was certain he would ignore the incriminating evidence and walk away. Even a dog has his culinary limitations, you know? In two quick bites my four-legged hero greedily dispatched of the liver portion and looked back up at me, licking his lips in anticipation of ‘more’. You want more, big boy? That I can do! Yessiree!
Faking a chewing presentation worthy of an Emmy, and using a smile I had practiced that was not too broad, yet enough to make mom believe I was in fact eating my liver, I scraped up a bundle of beans onto my fork. When she returned her attention to daddy, I covertly flicked the slimy concoction to my eagerly waiting canine partner-in-crime below me. In one fell swoop, the liver and half of the green beans were gone! I could not believe my good fortune; everything was going to be alright after all and I had been delivered from having to force down vile chunks of things I did not care for. Another quick flick, delicately orchestrated as in the previous manner, being careful not to become careless through overconfidence, and the pretty blue flowers would become my testimony to mom of the requisite proof I had completed the meal.
As I geared up my improvised catapult, an unsettling sound began to emanate from under the table. Poco was choking (or was he gagging?). Mom quickly scanned my end of the table and I did the only thing I could think of: I shoveled the fork-full of detestable green beans into my mouth and began to chew as rapidly as possible, hoping to draw a conclusion of innocence from her as I tried my best to swallow the ever expanding, rubbery green glob in my mouth. They tried to go down my throat, they really did. I give credit where credit is due. But the nervousness of Poco possibly ratting me out evaporated as I began to feel the all too familiar gag reflex rising in my stomach. Please Lord, no! I covered my mouth with my hands and held my breath, the issue remaining in doubt for several seconds as time stood still. And, as if the Lord Himself had intervened in that moment, somehow the rancid cud of green beans miraculously slid uneventfully down my throat.
“There. Not so bad, huh?” My mom said with little quarter. “You cleaned your plate. I knew you would like them if you just tried them.”
I shook my head in a not-so-honest pattern of agreement. My brother gave me a mean look – he was desperately trying to engineer his own solution, one apparently revolving around a few wadded-up napkins and two empty pockets. What an amateur! But the choking of Poco along with my dining end-game had mom on high alert by that point. If I remember correctly, he managed to swallow the liver and the beans in what still ranks as one of the most heroic feats I have ever witnessed in all of my forty-eight years.
As I grew older, I never ate liver again, and barring some cosmic, earth-shattering event, I never will. Furthermore, I have made it a point as a parent to never force my children to do the same. Strangely enough, two out of my four have acquired a taste for it on their own. Go figure.
These days we are asked to keep our minds open, and to ‘think outside of the box.’ We are preached to by the media (and in some pulpits, religious and political) that we should be more tolerant toward the belief systems proposed by others, and less assured of the morals and faith we grew up with. We are reminded by those in the know that there is no right and no wrong, only the various shades of grey in between. We are told that truth is merely relative depending on the situation. ‘Try it, you’ll like it’, a catch-phrase of the 1970’s, has been regurgitated and could very well be used to describe the mantra of our current civilization - if you can still call it that.
Yet I refuse to conform to the modern beliefs of our new-age society in general. Instead I hold dearest to the truths passed down to me from my father and his liver-and-onions-with-French-styled-green-beans cook. I remain firmly within the grips of G_d’s Holy Word, because I understand the concept expressed by the writer of Proverbs when he wrote, ““There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
Without passing too much judgment, I’ll merely take those modern thoughts and flip them under the table. It’s much safer that way and easier for me to digest.