Chew on this

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I’m sure of it. It’s still there. Waiting. Waiting for me. Placed down on a dining room table nearly fifty-five years ago, none of us kids wanted to smell it, much less touch it.

The table was in the childhood home my three brothers, The Sister and me lived in on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. Most memories from our seven years spent growing up there are good. This is not one of those. This memory is about rules, lots and lots of rules. And one very disgusting platter of meat.

The list of rules my three brothers, The Sister and I lived with while growing up seemed almost endless.

“Do this,” “Don’t do that,” “Sit up,” “No running in the house,” “Don’t put gum in your sister’s hair,” “No talking back,” and “Don’t jump on the beds” were just a few.

But the one place that had the most rules? When we all gathered around the table for a meal in the formal dining room, a room used only during the holidays and special occasions. Let’s see if any of the rules around our table are the same ones you remember around yours. And trust me, this isn’t a complete list. After all, there is a word limit to this column.

The rules began even before food was on the table. We had to set the table a certain way with silverware, plates, glasses and napkins. Then, when dinner was ready, one of us boys had to pull chairs out for The Sister and Mom.

We couldn’t sneak anything until someone said the blessing. Instead of just grabbing food off the large platters on the table, we had to wait our turn. When the platter of food was passed down to us, we’d get a little and then pass it on.

“Don’t throw food or anything else.” Giving the dog food under the table was not allowed. “No talking with food in your mouth.” Everyone had to “Sit up straight.” (Why, I still don’t know. As an adult, I can testify that food will still go down whether you’re slouching or not.)

But the biggest dinner time rule of them all? “Don’t waste food.” Our parents both said, “People are starving around the world. Don’t leave the table unless you’ve cleaned your plate.” Which I did my entire childhood, except the one time our parents served us liver and onions.

I was barely 8 years old when Mom passed down the platter of liver and onions to me. Dad said it was Mom’s favorite meat, so I chose the largest portion, then passed the platter over to Twin Brother Mark. After we said the blessing, I cut a large bite and stuffed it into my mouth and started to chew.

The rest of the evening I witnessed our dog being fed liver under the table by my three brothers and The Sister. This went unnoticed by our parents because they were too focused on me throwing a tantrum and refusing to eat any more of it. That liver and I sat at our table alone for hours until I finally fell asleep still sitting in my chair. Dad carried me to bed that night.

What happened to that plate of liver I never knew, but it was the last time it was served to any of us. To this day, whenever I see or smell it, I’m taken back to that meal. Not only do I see that disgusting gray meat on my plate, but I can still taste it. It’s the things nightmares are made of.

Now some of you, Dear Readers, may think that I’m exaggerating the distaste we kids all had for that thing called liver. But we are not alone. Children have sat and stared at that disgusting gray lump on their plates for a lot longer than I’ve been alive. And I have proof.

Last weekend, we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Our friends, who are brothers, happen to be unbelievably good chefs, and they cooked us a five-star meal. Over dessert, the topic of food came up, specifically which food we liked best and which we liked the least. I told the story above.

Daphne echoed my distaste for liver. Wrinkling her face, she proclaimed, “Mom served us liver and onions once. Couldn’t eat it. It’s a disgusting thing.” Daphne just celebrated her 93rd birthday.

I know in the middle of a pandemic you should be careful and not go out for dinner, but it’s okay. Daphne is family … well almost. The Wife’s older sister will marry one of the brothers at the end of this month. Soon we’ll have a professional chef in the family!

You can invite The Wife and me to dinner anytime, and we’ll be happy to come. But please don’t serve us liver and onions. If you do, I just hope you have a hungry inside dog who likes sitting under the table at dinner time.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]