Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pizza To Go.

When most people eat food, they can smell and taste it. When most people eat the food they have smelled and tasted, they can get some sense as to whether it is, you know, edible. Most people view food poisoning as a fairly rare event in their lives.

It must be reiterated, I am not most people.

Thanks to countless sinus infections in childhood and adolescence, I have virtually no sense of smell, which has seriously compromised my sense of taste. Thanks to having virtually no sense of taste, I am fairly indifferent to what I eat, being as it is all perceived as a thousand shades of taupe, flavor-wise. This means that at least four times a year, I eat something which any sane person would have thrown across the room by virtue of smell alone, if not the taste. I, on the other hand, chew it contemplatively and think things like “Is egg salad supposed to be tangy?”

This was one of those weeks where food poisoning enters my life. Upon discovery of said food poisoning (a remarkably unsubtle malady), I went to my usual M.O., which is to drink nothing but water for hydration and fruit juice for some sugar to keep me going until the storm passes. This usually takes no more than a day. This time, however, I was into day three with no end in sight, and I was completely flummoxed. Why wasn’t I getting better? I was taking in nothing but water and juice, so how was it I was contemplating setting up the DVD player in the bathroom?

The first clue I had was when I went to pour the juice on the morning of day four and it oozed from the bottle like honey. The day before, it had been liquid; now, it was rapidly heading towards a solid state; I had been feeding the food poisoning beast three times a day. And readers, here’s where you get to talk about me behind my back; I still tasted it. It was odd, sure, but only slightly off. Then again, with the papier-mâché taste buds I have, I’m sure I was missing out on an experience other people would have called the EPA in to clear.

So, I’m better, and I’m in my thin pants, and that’s really what counts.

But it did remind me of something I had been meaning to do. Two nights before, a friend arrived from New York bearing an overnight bag and a huge cardboard pizza box which contained an honest-to-God New York cheese pizza inside, a sweet, generous, and lunatic act. I cannot imagine how excited the other flyers were to have their carry-on luggage lightly perfumed with oregano and dotted with grease.

Daughter and Consort ate pizza for dinner that night, more pizza than some good parents or partners might have tolerated, in fact. I drank my soon-to-be-discovered-was-poisoned juice and noted the pizza which was left; even with two people eating until illness, there were conservatively 425 pieces. Consort drifted back into the kitchen that night a few times, but we still had enough pizza to feed the Italian national soccer team, and I wasn’t expecting them this week. I fed pizza to Daughter for breakfast and encouraged Consort to have some for lunch. Consort looked worried. I spend most of my time saying to him things like “Pizza? Again?”; this was so out of character he must have thought the food poisoning bacterium was attacking my brain.

In the end, both of their trencherman abilities mattered not; the box was still taking up half the fridge, and I believed there were actually more slices than when we had brought it home. I de-prioritized this thought while battling food poisoning, but once on the mend, I knew I had to do battle with it. The pizza had been eaten and appreciated. We had thanked the giver profusely and sincerely. Now, the pizza had to go.

But I couldn’t make myself throw it away. It was delicious and highly edible, which gave it a leg up over most things I ate. Someone out there could use this food. Throwing out good food is a sin when you stop to consider the degree of want and privation in the world. It’s not as if I could have wrapped the pizza back into its box and sent it on its second plane trip, this time to the Sudan, to be of service, but someone needs feeding-

That’s it! A homeless guy! I could find one of the cardboard sign guys at a long stop light and give him a days worth of calories. If he had a dog, they could both partake.

But wait, I thought joyously, running to the cupboard, I can give them dessert as well!

Consort has a friend, an elderly woman, who has taken a great interest in Daughter without ever having met her. Having been a librarian before she retired, she kindly sends Daughter slightly obscure books she thinks Daughter might like, which she nearly always does. Daughter writes her thank-you notes in return with little book reviews on the most recent reads; everyone seems to get what they need.

Lately, however, this wonderfully kind woman has taken to sending Daughter bags of a particular kind of store-bought cookie. Nobody in the house is a fan of them, but I have yet to find in any etiquette book how to politely decline a food gift, and while trying to figure out how to stop getting them without hurting her feelings, we’ve gotten six bags. It’s going to look weird if we ask them to stop now. And I’m not sure it necessitates discussing, because I don’t think it costs her a great deal to buy them, it pleases her terribly to send them, and no one stands in front of us watching us eat them.

[In answer to your next question, she isn’t online, which is how I can talk about this here.]

So, I grabbed the two last bags of these cookies and, balancing them on top of the pizza box, weaved my way out to the car. I had a mess of small errands to do and all of them were on the side of town most likely to have someone begging for money at a stoplight. This would be easy.

A side note: my mother swears she can change every traffic light in Los Angeles. All she has to do is hold a lipstick tube in her hand as she drives, with the intention of applying lipstick at a stoplight. This will create a domino effect of green lights in front of her from Palm Springs all the way to Santa Monica. I have now found a corollary, which our city planners need to consider. For one afternoon this week, I fixed the homeless problem in Los Angeles; by dint of having something to give to a person in dire straights, I erased every single homeless person from the East side of Los Angeles.

Where were all the people waving signs at me when I was waiting to make a turn? Where was “Homeless and desperate” or “Six children and a Gulf War vet” or even “AIDS victim needs beer”?

Gone. All gone.

And do I have to mention that it was easily over a hundred degrees that day? And that even with the air-conditioning making the car a safe place to keep a milk product, I was starting to see little pools of grease first on the pizza box, then on the car seat, and finally on the passenger seat belt (I had to buckle it in; in the event of an accident, a box that size could have decapitated me)?

Finally, finally, while driving west on a busy street, I thought I saw a man hovering around the left-hand turn lane on the east side. Of course, I had to drive through a street repair and make an illegal u-turn in order to get back to where he was, but he was there! Clearly, the memo detailing how all homeless people should hide from Quinn hadn’t reached him!

I jammed the box out of my window, only bending it slightly so it might fit, and tossed the cookies over to his waiting hands. Meanwhile, everyone behind me wished me dead; that left-hand lane is blessed with the shortest green arrow on earth, more of a competitive sporting event rather than actual traffic help, and I had just wasted one precious light handing what appeared to the drivers behind me to be a piano box.

You know what’s good about being me and having virtually no sense of smell? Sure, I have no idea of when food has spoiled, and Consort is forced to apply my perfume for me, so I don’t accidentally put on enough to kill canaries, but right now my car smells like baked pizza grease, and I can’t smell it at all.


Blogger torontopearl said...

I truly couldn't imagine not having any sense of smell or a rather weak one. I am hypersensitive to smells -- driving along the road, I can tell someone's smoking...before I even see them alongside me, ahead of me or behind me.
Maybe the one good thing you don't have to smell these days is dog poop. My dog's poop smells worse than my three kids' diapers did -- put together!

12:54 PM  
Blogger hedosean said...

Once again Quinn, You and I are birds of a feather. On a couple of accounts this time. Since my GBS surgery my sense of both smell and taste have ventured toward the nonexistant side of the spectrum thus I too tend to eat things that a normal human being would classify as ecologically dangerous.

Second I tend to often drive around with"gifts" for the homeless and never seem to be able to find them. We have a shed half-full of bags of clothes waiting to be taken to the free store. only whenever we load it into the back of the minivan the freestore is closed and I refuse to leave them outside to be rained on and ruined. When we finally get to make our deliveries to thhem they think we are coming from a church or something. with 6 children we have usually accumulated 2 full minivanloads by the time we KNOW the freestore is open and can drop it all off.

Best of luck

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to wait tables in a hotel restaurant in downtown Chicago that was full of business folk on expense accounts (no judgment, really.) Because of this, they tended to sometimes order much too much food and if more than 50 percent remained, I would wrap it up, throw in some plastic cutlery and walk out to the busy curb. If I didn't see anyone right away I'd yell something like "I got meatloaf" and leave it on the ground.
Surprisingly I never got fired.
But to this day, I am a crazy person when it comes to leftovers. And I know exactly what you mean about the homeless going into hiding when you are actually looking for them.
A friend and her kids (6 & 8)visited over the weekend. There were a lot of meals out and a lot of leftovers. One night we saved a piece of deep-dish pizza before going to the theatre. I had the kids help me find someone to give it to-- which me did. We repeated this at least 3 times over the weekend. Now I worry that they seem homelessness as a game.
I hope not.

BTW- Quinn, if I couldn't taste or smell well, I'd finally be able to tolerate yogurt!

8:33 PM  
Blogger Amie said...

I'm with you on the no sense of smell. My mother thought I was crazy (there might have been other reasons as well) because I would claim to not be able to smell things, and when I could, I would describe smells by color. Turns out there's wiring mixed up inside that leads to a disorder called synesthesia, in which senses get confused. It means I get relegated to litter box duty all the time, but I also discovered it makes me nearly immune to pepper spray.

6:40 AM  

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