Cancerland changes your habits, even (and perhaps especially) the ones so antique and ingrained that you really didn’t know you had them. I didn’t know, for instance, that I was a wolfer and a guzzler, downing a beer at one go, with my eyes closed, and barely chewing my meals. But I must have been a very great wolfer and a guzzler, because I am certainly a changed man in both those areas. Listen, all I want to say about this is that my trouble is in the esophagus, and the esophagus is the swallowing tube. You do the math.
Anyway, I am now a careful chewer, a slow sipper, and very mindful of the friction coefficient of whatever I put in my mouth. Clams on the half shell=good; peanut britttle=bad.
What’s a little marvelous about this (marvelous in the archaic sense of making one marvel) is that I find myself drawn to the very same foods I had a hankering for as a kid. I am eating appallingly bad things these days, of the kind my mother, who was a good cook, balked at making for my brother and me. No, really: Appallingly bad. Canned spaghetti and meatballs. Hotdogs cut up and mixed with mustard. Bread soaked in store-bought gravy. And I am drinking grape juice. Not the white grape juice of sophisticates. Purple grape juice, the stuff that leaves a Dennis the Menace mustache on your upper lip.
To appreciate the irony of this you have to know that I still am something of a feinschmecker. That’s the German equivalent of gourmet, but I like feinschmecker (“fine taster”) better because it retains more of the fussiness of the breed than the by now entirely neutral gourmet does. I’ve never been an extreme foodie, but, well, I’ve had my pretensions. Heck, I’ve eaten at Cibreo, the great restaurant in Florence, though I passed up the proud and excited offer of upright rooster head on a plate, because I believe that diners should study their food and not the other way around.
Please understand that I am not complaining. Moreover, if Mephistopheles were to appear before me right now, offering to get me out of the hot water I’m in by moving my spirit and mind into some unidentified and unnamed other of his choice, I swear to you I would decline the bargain, on the very good assumption that the average situation on this poor earth is much worse than mine. Imagine being a stick-thin child squatting on a mound of trash somewhere in the Third World, poking about for scraps that might be exchanged for pennies, and then for food. That such an urchin is cancer-free does not make him or her enviable, or any less doomed than I am.
I really only wanted to say how funny it is that I am returning to the sloppy, slurpy, cheap off-the-shelf dishes of my childhood.
And then, of course, if things get worse, I may have to move still further back in time, to baby food: strained beef, pureed carrots, apple sauce.
After which, I suppose, if I can find a wet-nurse with a sense of humor….
Benjamin Button, move over.