Gastronomically Challenged

a radio commentary broadcast on Jefferson Public Radio's The Jefferson Daily
Tuesday, August 5, 1997
(c)1997 by Fred Flaxman

HOST: Have you ever been invited to a dinner party where the main course consisted completely of foods you detested? Well that happens to our regular Tuesday commentator, Fred Flaxman, almost every time he's invited out. He recently figured out what his problem is.

FLAXMAN: When I was a little kid my two favorite meals were spaghetti with meat balls and hot dogs with French fries. I have made some culinary progress since then. I am now 57 years old and my first and second choices for dinner are: spaghetti with turkey meat sauce and sausages with mashed potatoes. I don't know why, but I have never once been served either meal when I am invited over to someone's house for dinner.

I used to be ashamed of my eating habits. Then last year, on a business trip to Taiwan, I suddenly realized what my problem was. I was sent first class via China Airlines. For 13 hours I was offered one delicacy after another, and refused them all. It was then that it occurred to me: The way some people are physically or emotionally retarded, I appear to be gastronomically fixated at the level of a five-year-old.

Being culinarily underdeveloped is not recognized as a disability, except, I suspect, by those of us who suffer from this affliction. We have no support groups, no doctors who know how to treat us, no reserved parking spaces in front of gourmet restaurants.

No one sympathizes with us when we are invited to Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and would rather be eating at Hiram's Hot Dogs in Fort Lee, N.J. No one feels sorry for us that we're humiliated every time a friend invites us for dinner, unless that friend is four years old. No one cares that we are victims of retarded taste buds which would rather sample a strawberry milkshake than a bottle of the finest French champagne. Or that everyone is sure we are recovering alcoholics because we won't touch a glass of wine.

Why isn't there a National Association for the Advancement of the Gastronomically Challenged? Why aren't government grants going to scientists to study how to get people like me to eat gherkins with gusto or pompano without pain?

Although there has never been a Jewish, black, Hispanic or female U.S. President, there have been at least two culinarily-retarded White House residents in recent memory. George Bush championed the cause when he said: "I didn't like broccoli when I was a child, and I don't like it now, and I'm President of the United States and I don't have to eat broccoli if I don't want to!" Maybe he would agree to head our support group? And we could make the late Richard Nixon our honorary founder. He liked to eat everything with ketchup, just like my seven-year-old granddaughter. And there are rumors about Bill Clinton.

If the gastronomically-deprived followed my lead and came out of the closet, we might find that, at least in America, we're not a minority after all. As McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken spread throughout the world, it won't be too long before a huge new generation of food Philistines takes over the known universe.

Then I'll finally be able to hold up my head with McPride.

This is Fred Flaxman.

HOST: Commentator Fred Flaxman writes a column called "Compact Discoveries" for the Jefferson Monthly, Jefferson Public Radio's membership magazine. He is also a regular columnist for the Ashland Lithiagraph.