642 Things to Write About: Writing Prompt #3

For graduation, I acquired a lovely book called 642 Things to Write About, which was compiled by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.  As a direct result of this, I have now challenged my fellow Word Nerds to respond to each prompt as they are posted on a weekly basis.  I will respond in the body of this post, while I ask everyone else to respond in the comments.  This week, the prompt is the following:

The worst Thanksgiving dish you ever had

So, here’s the thing.  The turkey…Just didn’t end up happening.

Please note that this is code for “We tried to make a turkey, but it kind of exploded in the oven.”

Here’s the other thing.  In order to prepare for the arrival of the turkey, our fridge was completely barren.  And everyone was hungry and all too willing to put off cleaning up the exploded turkey in favor of eating.

Now, generally in situations like this one, there are three possible solutions:

  1. We could clean up the turkey first and worry about eating later.
  2. We could go out to eat.
  3. We could make sandwiches.

The first was simply not an option, because my family is made up of known procrastinators, and, really, who would not procrastinate cleaning up an exploded turkey?

The second was beginning to look highly appealing to me.  That said, my grandmother upholds three main beliefs above all else:

  • God will provide ultimate salvation.
  • The freezer saves everything that God can’t.
  • Never eat out when there is food in your own house.  Also, never eat out when there is a grocery store in existence somewhere.  Unless it’s a special occasion, and then someone else has to buy so she can harass you about how you don’t have enough money to pay for it.

Yeah.  You can guess where this is going.

See, here’s the thing about deli-sliced black forest ham.  It is unquestionably delicious, and everyone, I’m sure, loves it equally.  Unless they’ve tried it when it’s been frozen.  And frozen in my grandmother’s freezer, no less, where there is a peculiar law of nature described in the following way by Sir Isaac Newton (who had rather a propensity for describing laws of nature): All food that enters Cara’s grandmother’s freezer for any length of time, but especially when actually frozen thereby, will taste forever, irrevocably like Cara’s grandmother’s freezer.  This is to say, all food frozen by Cara’s grandmother will become instantly inedible.

The same rules apply for cheddar cheese.

Now imagine this: One slice of bread + a slice of cheddar cheese that has entered my grandmother’s freezer (and has been residing there for at least six months, no less) + one piece of deli-sliced black forest ham that, I swear to God, was created in my grandmother’s freezer (and also tastes like the plastic it was stored in) + yellow mustard + another slice of bread.

Now, between the scent of the scorched turkey remains and the taste of my grandmother’s freezer in between two slices of bread (with mustard added for extra joy), I really was okay just skipping dinner for the night and, without a doubt, skipping black forest ham for the rest of my life.

Except that there is a fourth belief of my grandmother’s that I was powerless to resist in her presence: All food will be eaten immediately or saved for later.  In the freezer if necessary.

[Author’s Note: Woefully, this is actually based on a true story, although I am indescribably happy to say that the actual black-forest-ham-from-the-depths-of-hell-slash-my-grandma’s-freezer-incident did not occur during Thanksgiving.  Also, I am pleased to report that this year marks the first time since I was six that I have been able to eat black forest ham without shuddering.]

Cara Kennaway

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6 thoughts on “642 Things to Write About: Writing Prompt #3

  1. Sweden.

    A fine nation. A nation with a proud history. A nation of kings, and queens, and strangely appealing heavy metal bands. A nation with the interesting distinction of having the highest volume of yearly coffee consumption of any nation in the world. Or, less pretentiously, Swedes drink more coffee than any other race on Earth. And not just any coffee. Strong, bitter, black coffee.

    Do you know *why* Sweden consumes that much coffee? Do you know *why* the average Swede requires more caffeine every year than anyone else anywhere in the world?

    Because there’s no sunlight.

    Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s sunlight. There are sunny days. There’re just few and far between. Summer isn’t the longest, most luxurious period of the year in Sweden. Summer is a privilege, a short breath of uncharacteristic warmth and glorious, all-too-fleeting sunshine to be enjoyed to the fullest extent of one’s ability before it’s gone.

    Naturally, it’s not just Sweden. All of Scandinavia is like this. Why do you think Scandinavians are stereotypically pale? Why do you think the Vikings were always running off to warmer climates?

    No sun. Or at least, not nearly enough sun.

    You put a race of people in a place like that, deprived of sunlight, cold, pale, surrounded by icy seas, and leave them to their own devices long enough, and something strange is bound to happen. They’re bound to get a little… odd. They’re bound to forget the natural order of things. They’re bound to do something awful, absolutely awful, and not even realize they’ve done it.

    And thus, the world finds itself faced with…

    Lutefisk.

    ***

    Fish soaked in lye.

    Let me just repeat that really quickly.

    Fish. Soaked. In LYE.

    Do you know what else they make out of lye?

    SOAP.

    Somebody took fish. And soaked it. In the caustic material. Out of which soap is made.

    Do you know what happens if you soak fish in lye?

    FISH JELL-O.

    Okay, fine, that’s not entirely true. It’s just fish with the consistency and texture of Jell-O.

    Think about that for a second. Actually, on second thought – don’t. Nobody deserves those nightmares.

    WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?

    And of course, we would have to be eating it on *Thanksgiving*. I’m sure that absolutely everybody at this table is thinking, “Wow, I sure am thankful that I get to eat fish Jell-O!”

    No, wait – they’re not.

    So here I am. Staring at my lye-soaked fish. Trying to be thankful for my lye-soaked fish. You know, some people aren’t as well-off as we are. Some people are going hungry this Thanksgiving and would cry tears of joy if only they could be given a taste of my wonderful lye-soaked fish. Hooray for my Scandinavian grandparents and this beautiful, fishy legacy which they have bequeathed to me.

    I pick up my fork.

    Here goes.

    ~Pearl

    P.S. This is, thankfully, only loosely based on a true story. My grandparents *have* served lutefisk at Thanksgiving dinners – but I’ve never had to eat it. :)

  2. I’m sorry you had to go through this, Cara. But you’ve done here what all great writers aim to do; you’ve taken your pain and channeled it into art. I applaud you.

    By the way, are you ever going to reply to the last email I sent you?

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