Posts Tagged ‘food’

January 20, 2021

It was Sunday, 6:30 P.M. Irving Zitkin, hamburger and cookie eater, sat at the dinner table staring at his vegetables, hoping they would disappear. Then he made a face; only for a second, but long enough for Mrs. Zitkin to see.

Violet Zitkin, mother, housewife and saint, frowned and sighed helplessly. “Darling,” she purred, “Please eat your vegetables. Don’t you want to grow strong, healthy and handsome like your father?” Harold Zitkin beamed from behind his newspaper.

She reminded Irving how lucky he was to have a mother who cared about what he ate. “How about eating just a little bit?” she persisted. “Vegetables are so-o- good for you!” Irving shook his head defiantly.

“That’s it!” Violet muttered between clamped teeth, “Harold!”

Harold Zitkin, father, local greengrocer and diplomat slowly lowered his Garden Variety Journal. He also loved his son but preferred peace at the dinner table. “Irving,” Harold offered reasonably, “How do you know you won’t like them unless you try?” The stubborn seven-year old looked to the ceiling for support.

“I mean, aren’t you even curious to know what they taste like?” his father went on. “Nope.” Irving pouted. “They look disgusting. My tongue might shrivel and fall off!”

“Well, son; vegetables are not there just to decorate your plate,” Harold said sternly, shaking a stringbean shaped finger at Irving. “So stop this funny business and eat your vegetables! NOW!”

Irving smirked and proceeded to push the vegetables around his plate. He arranged his peas, corn, diced carrots and broccoli so they spelled out his name.

“I’d really rather have another hamburger instead of these stupid vegetables,” Irving shrugged indifferently, still testing his mother’s patience. “Irving!” Violet Zitkin begged.“Please!” Suddenly, Irving decided he’d had enough nagging.

Jumping up, he shoved back his chair and headed for the garbage can, plate in hand. The Zitkins watched in shock as their son savagely dumped his vegetables into the trash, shouting, “That’s it! I’m never going to eat these yucky things for anybody again!” Tossing his plate (fortunately it was plastic) into the sink, he turned to face his parents with an innocent smile. “So what’s for dessert?” he cooed, eyeing the plate of chocolate chip cookies on the counter.

Quickly recovering their wits, the Zitkins glared at their son. “Dessert? We don’t THINK so, young man.” they grumbled in unison. Disappointed and still hungry, Irving stomped upstairs and slammed his door. It was going to be a long night.

Kicking his way through piles of books and toys, Irving plopped onto his bed. “Well, I’ll just sneak down to the kitchen later and snag some of those cookies,” he vowed, giving in to a loud yawn. Soon however, his eyelids slid to half-mast, sinking fast. He didn’t see the dim bulb above his head flicker nor did he feel his bed lurch gently from side to side as the walls of his room slowly faded away…

Awakened by soft breezes under a sunny green sky, Irving lay perfectly still and frowned, trying to figure out where he was. He reached a tentative hand towards the floor. It came up covered in some spicy, slimy stuff. “E-e-u-uw!” Irving gagged. Then he saw it. Out of the corner of his eye, a huge orange thing with green hair and strange root-like hands had sidled up to his bed. Terrified, Irving dived under his quilt. “Ma-a-a!” he wailed. No answer; just a dry, crunchy chuckle. “Good Morning, Irving Zitkin. said the huge orange thing. “We were wondering when you’d get here.”

“Here?” Irving squeaked, dropping his quilt. “Where is here? And what are you?”

“Why, you’ve arrived at the Garden of Eating, you silly boy! Welcome to the first course! “I am Corporal Carotte.” The orange thing introduced himself with a stiff bow. “Follow me, if you please!”

Suddenly Irving realized he was talking to a giant carrot! He shut his eyes, muttering, “This isn’t happening…”

“Oh, yes, it is,” asserted the Corporal cheerfully. “King Bountiful has been expecting you.”

Irving crawled out of his bed, stepping gingerly through the slimy salad dressing. “What does King Bountiful want with me?” he huffed, hurrying to keep up with his guide.

As they bounced through leafy green valleys, and waded through haystacks of shredded cheese., the Corporal sneered, “Well, my boy, it seems His Royal Vegginess is not thrilled with your treatment of his loyal subjects. You see, we VeggieBeasts pride ourselves on our roles in maintaining the health of you ‘carnivorous types’ and we don’t take kindly to being wasted!”

As they descended a hill of croutons, Irving gaped at the panorama ahead. Rolling, bouncing and slithering towards them were an army of giant vegetables! He saw retinues of radishes, bunches of brazen broccoli, swarms of sentient squash, and throngs of tumbling tomatoes. They seemed to come from everywhere! Then Irving noticed the enormous potato creature marching towards them on his fat, gnarled roots.

King Bountiful, dressed in robes of ridicchio and romaine lettuce was crowned with a cornucopia of tiny vegetables. As he marched, His Royal Vegginess pointed an ornate rhubarb scepter in Irving’s direction!

“Ah, here he comes now. It looks like he means to teach you a lesson!” said the Corporal with a sinister smile. “I’d mind my manners, if I were you.” The huge carrot bowed low until his fuzzy head greens swept the ground.

All at once, Irving understood. The King and his VeggieBeasts were going to get him for trashing his salad! They might even boil him in oil and vinegar! Desperately, young Zitkin tried to remember the way back to his bed as the ground began to shake! The VeggieBeasts were hot on his trail! With a frantic screech, Irving made a mad dash for anywhere but here! He’d better eat his vegetables before they ate him!

At that moment he found himself back in his bed. “Yow, what a dream!” Irving sighed with relief. Then he smelled something suspicious. Turning over, Irving faced a steaming plate of vegetables left on his nightstand by his loving mother. He stared at them in annoyance and considered trashing them for a second time that evening.

Suddenly he heard someone shuffling up the steps to his room. “UH-oh!” Irving gasped, remembering King Bountiful and the VeggieBeasts. “I’d better not take any chances!” Frantically, he held his nose and shoveled spoonfuls of carrots, broccoli, green beans and potatoes into his mouth.

“Irving… are you all right?” came a concerned voice outside his door. Gulping down the last of the green beans, he mumbled, “Yeah, Ma. I’m fine. Sorry I made you upset.”

“Oh, Irving, don’t worry about it,” Violet Zitkin said with a smile in her voice. “How about getting ready for bed now? I’ll see you in the morning, OK?”

“OK…Um-m, Ma?” Irving called sheepishly, “I’m done with my dinner now.”

“I know you are, ‘sweetheart’.” came a dry, crunchy chuckle. Irving suddenly froze in terror. “Yow! Corporal Carotte’s come back for me!

Holding his breath, he listened as the strange voice and shuffling footsteps faded down the stairs. Then he tiptoed softly to his door, opening it just a crack…

But all Irving saw was a plate heaped high with chocolate chip cookies.

Illustration & Text © 2006 Ilene Winn-Lederer

If illustrations appear distorted in your browser, just double-click on them for clear view.

Note To My Readers:

If you enjoyed this little story, would you like to see Irving & The VeggieBeasts fully illustrated as a book for children? Please comment!

That Was Delicious, May I Have My Check, Please?

October 31, 2013

BirkatHamazonRGB.jpgOutside of those whose regular practice is to recite the blessings after each meal, I suspect that, per the title of this post, more expressions of gratitude for our food go to our servers in restaurants upon receipt of our tab and/or to the chef for a meal well-prepared and thoughtfully presented rather than to the more ethereal Source of Life.

Though I have not always done so, in recent years I’ve decided to try and experience my meals as more than just stuffing my face; whether it is to appreciate the combinations of colors and textures, the unique fragrances of each item on the plate or just acknowledging the complex processes that have made this meal come together as a gift of nourishment for body and soul. This line of thinking and the memories of fine meals past and present led me to choose the Birkat Ha-Mazon or the Blessings After Meals for my next illumination.

Research began with wondering about the origin of this set of blessings and pointed to the reference I found in Devarim or Deuteronomy 8:10: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He gave you”. I learned that the lengthy combinations of blessings and songs of thanks consist of four distinct but related ideas expressed in a lovely poetic stanzas.  They are: the Birkat Hazan (blessing for nourishment and praise for the One Who Sustains the World), the Birkat Ha’aretz (blessing for the Land of Israel), the Binyan Yerushalayim (blessing for the rebuilding of Jerusalem), and the HaTov V’Hameytiv (blessing for the One Who Is Good and the One Who Does Good). Following these blessings, a group of short prayers beginning with the word HaRachaman (The Merciful One) ask the Source of Life for compassion.

Although several versions of the Birkat Ha-Mazon can be found within Judaism (Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Yemenite), I’ve chosen the Ashkenazic form with which I am most familiar. Accordingly, the illustration includes medieval Jews of Central and Eastern European ethnicity, my own cultural background. The pewter dinnerware on the table are empty indicating the conclusion of a meal. Since the figures portrayed are not nobility, their durable pewter might have been more commonly used than finer metals or porcelain. Above this group are four items reflecting the concepts of the blessing’s four verses; a winged crown, a jar of biblical manna, a lion and a model of Jerusalem surmounted by a living date palm. Each item has it’s mundane and mystical purpose and detailed explanations of these will appear in the artist’s commentary of An Illumination Of Blessings.

So I guess the question I have via this blessing is; do you live to eat or do you eat to live? If your choice is the latter, then maybe a little mindfulness will help us realize how to make everything we eat that much tastier… or as the French Ashkenazim might say, ‘Be’ te-avon’ (Bon Appetit)!

Bits Of Whimsy: Innovasion

April 13, 2012

One evening, in the mood for some lo mein and oolong tea, I headed for my favorite neighborhood Chinese bistro. When the waiter had taken my order, he handed me a set of flatware, but asked if I preferred to use chopsticks. I chose the latter out of habit. But as I returned the fork, I had a strange notion about this ubiquitous tool. If a fork normally has four tines, why is it not called a ‘fourk’? Silly, I suppose; nevertheless, I soon began to wonder about the design and taxonomy of gastronomic utensils in general. For that matter, why are two or three-pronged implements not called ‘tworks’ or ‘thorks’? Following this fork in my thought trail, I recalled Edward Lear’s famous poem, The Owl and the Pussycat in which the lovers ate their mince and quince with a runcible spoon, a very practical utensil that combined a fork and a spoon. Now it’s called a ‘spork’. Well, I couldn’t stop there. As I mused on the look and possible names of other hybrid utensils, my eye noticed a brown marmolated stink bug staring down at me from atop my computer monitor. Eeuww. And the image you see above began to materialize. For sure, this drawing has other levels that you can enjoy interpreting, but you can get back to me on that…