You know how still life paintings often showcase nice, rustic tables with enticing bowls of fruit? Well, this is not that.
I’m about to share a true still life of my “table.” It’s from a moment I caught myself being bad, and I’m afraid this scene might be etched in my mind for a while. But in the name of art, here we go. Picture the scene:
• Computer desk cluttered with mail and papers.
• Atop one pile, a crumpled M&M’s bag.
• On another stack of notes, an empty white plate dotted with evidence of a mustard misfire.
• The atomic clock on the lower corner of the computer showing 2:48 p.m.
The plate was empty because that day, at precisely 2:48 p.m., I was launching a half-eaten hot dog into my mouth. At mid-chomp — just about the time some extra mustard glommed onto my upper lip — my eyes caught the empty M&M’s bag. Also, I was still in my jammies. And I had bedhead.
I paused with a mouth full of nitrites and thought, “Wow. Am I really doing this? An M&M’s appetizer chased by a hot dog?” Then I shrugged and carried on.
In my defense, it was a Nathan’s hot dog. By law, if you are born in Brooklyn, you are required to occasionally inhale this treasure of Coney Island. Also, it was a terribly busy day. I had several overlapping deadlines and lots of other stuff going on. Lunch had to be a quick shot of adrenaline-sparking, tummy-expanding anything.
I was informing my body, “Look, I know you’re hungry. We have deadlines. Let’s just do this.”
I don’t even swoon over M&M’s. They were my son’s. But they were there. As was the leftover hot dog. So. Pilfered M&M’s and a microwaved frankfurter. This is what I have become. This is my art.
I have already established here, so publicly, that I’m not known for being a phenomenal gourmet chef or an adventurous foodie person. I never contribute Facebook posts of magazine-worthy beef tenderloin garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary. Yet I get by. My family eats just fine. Healthy stuff appears on the table day in and day out. Sure, I like a gourmet meal. I’m not an idiot. And I’ve dumped bags of money on the Whole Foods conveyor belt.
Really, I care.
Except when I don’t. There are so many times I can’t be bothered with “the meal experience.” Just as I typed that, all of my late French relatives and ancestors pirouetted in their graves. But honestly, there are days I refuse to run out and get flowers for the centerpiece or spend time mincing vanilla beans. All that fuss is great, but who’s scrubbing the souvenir pots and pans? Moi, that’s who.
The microwave is my frenemy. I am proud to say this, even in an age of foodie one-upmanship. And what’s going on with that? Industrial stoves in home kitchens. Bizarro spices from Istanbul. It seems if there’s a roasted sweet potato and some form of basil on a plate, call in the photographers! Meanwhile, boop, boop, boop, I’m defrosting a frozen burrito.
For the record, hours after my bad lunch, I prepared a dinner with a mountain of kale and other leafy stuff — with my own dressing. I even employed a garlic press. Yet, I refuse to feel guilty for my somewhat frequent nutritional transgressions. On the day of my “gastronomical adventure,” no chocolate melted in my hands and onto the keyboard. And that dog got me through the afternoon.
My only regret? I didn’t snap a picture of my mustard-slathered frank. For art’s sake.