I was one of the first in my family to fly. My best friend had moved to a place I could not ride my bike to: I was heartbroken. While we did not go to the same elementary school, I went to parochial school Corpus Christi on Long Island, and he went somewhere else. Or at least I think he did. I really don’t know, but I know he was not in my class. So the how we met is beyond me. I thought about it for a while and thought that perhaps we had a paper route together but realized no, I was too young for a paper route at the time. Either that or he just did not have a paper route and we met in some other fashion. It really does not matter I guess but it bugs me that I can’t remember. I do remember he had a large family, something like four or five brothers and the same amount of sisters. I used to spend some weekends there, probably slept on the floor.
His dad had to move the family to a suburb outside of Washington DC for his work, a promotion of some sort. I was so upset I guess, that my parents decided to allow me to travel to DC by myself. I must have been around 11 or 12 when we headed for then Idlewild Airport (now Kennedy) in New York City for the brief but exciting flight to Washington. It felt as if the airplane went straight up and came straight down at the end of the flight but it was so much fun. He and his mother were waiting for me at the foot of the stairs as I exited the plane and with renewed friendship excitement we made all sorts of plans for the coming week.
I can only imagine that cooking for her monster family was a challenge for his mom because we had very interesting meals. Mashed potatoes and gravy for breakfast. More baloney and cheese sandwiches than I would ever want again for lunch and sometimes breakfast and dinner was almost always a mystery. A mystery because as a young kid what am I going to say about what’s being served? It was for the most part warm and covered with gravy and that’s all that mattered to me. Occasionally we would have chicken thrown in the mix, the only meat I could identify by sight, but aside from that I haven’t a clue what was served.
Except for one night.
Dinner was usually just a giant cluster with people always moving around, you never got the same seat, not was it ever served at the same time. Everything depended on how the “flow” of the giant family was going at the time. I was seated next to his dad this particular eventing when tonight’s mystery meat was presented on a platter, covered with gravy on both the meat and mashed potatoes, and passed around. I really do not remember much about having been served any vegetables; they were probably there just covered in gravy making them indistinguishable from anything else. You were generally left to fend for yourself when it came to cutting things up but this night I was really having difficulty cutting this meat. His dad noticed and offered to cut a few pieces for me to get me started. He cut off a few large chunks and I started eating the gravy soaked lump of meat he had managed to cut.
I never really looked at what I was eating because the excitement of the large family dynamics going on around me always kept me focused on them and not the food. His mom was probably a good cook, it’s just when you’re cooking for 13 or 14 people at a table made for 8 tops, meals are always interesting. Anyway I was about three or four chews into this hunk of meat in my mouth when I noticed it was defiantly different. I must have gotten a huge piece of gristle because this piece was not going anywhere. Noticing my struggle his dad asked if I was enjoying the meat. I must have mumbled something about it being difficult to chew when he said well, that’s because you’re eating tongue.
I don’t remember much about the next few minutes but I do remember running to the bathroom and tossing dinner as I gagged and gagged puking everything I had since breakfast. Pictures of pretty cows with their tongues out came into mind. He never said whose tongue it was I had assumed some kind of beef, but I’ve since learned people eat all sorts of tongues — even duck tongues! Absolutely disgusting.
(I was going to post a picture here but every one made me want to hurl)
Anyway I really don’t know what initiated this thought about that particular dinner with my BFF’s family. I had been watching nostalgic Christmas movies on Hallmark and that is what may have prompted this thought process; thinking of simpler times, best friends that everyone seems to have that I never did besides my wife Monica. I was never interested in that type of friendship. Perhaps the loss of my one best friend when I was younger was enough to seal off the prospect of looking for another … I don’t know. I’ll clue you in on octupus by the way, in case you’re inclinded to stick a tenticle laced leg of this mollusk in your mouth, it tastes just like tongue and just as easy to chew!