Thursday, July 29, 2010

"what's michael going to eat there?" (m)

Meet Michael, my 23 year-old nephew.  He's the younger son of my brother, Phil. 

In a family of food-involved people, Michael is an outlier.  He's the only one who eats solely to live.

His repertoire these days is comprised almost exclusively of the three P's--pancakes, pizza, and pasta.  All white in color and/or round in shape.    My mother shakes her head when she thinks about it.  "No fruit, no vegetables....I don't know where the hell he came from."

In high school, his go-to snack was Andy Capp's hot fries, chased down by a quart of skim milk.  He usually bought these himself at the local Store 24.  Once, my sister-in-law (who wears dresses, make-up and nice jewelry everyday) did a run for him at the store.  The clerk behind the counter saw the items and said excitedly, "I know this man!  I know this order!"  My sister-in-law took a photo of Michael out of her wallet and said, "Is this the young man?".   "Yes!" Please tell him I say hello!"

Michael has joined us for a few of our family vacations.  Once, in Provincetown, my husband paid him $10 to try swordfish.  He gamely accepted the challenge, took a bite, swallowed it and collected his money.   That was his first, last, and only experience with seafood.  At the Gritti Palace in Venice, he ate only pasta with a little butter and grated cheese.  They charged $25 for that meal.   Every meal every night for ten days afterwards was "pasta con burro e formaggio".  Pasta with butter and cheese.

So, you can imagine our surprise when Michael announced he is going to China for a year to teach English to Chinese students in a city just outside of  Hong Kong.    The first question out of everyone's mouth was not Why? but What's he going to eat there?

Last night, the family gathered for dinner in Michael's honor at his house.  Everyone was two sons and husband, my brothers' families, my mother, and Aunts X and Y and the little demon dog, Charlie.  My brother and his wife cooked up a storm...chicken parm, ziti, breadballs, side dishes of vegetables, fresh Italian bread,  Caesar salad. Three types of cakes (coconut, gold, Boston Cream).

We asked Michael about the travel logistics (gruesome... Boston to Seoul, South Korea... to Beijing, China... and then a 26-hour train ride to his city).   Aunt X asked if the capital of Beijing was Tokyo. We then asked about his teaching schedule.  Then about the climate.  Then about his travel plans during his free time.  And then....the obvious question:  "Michael...what are you going to eat there?"

His answer: "I'll be fine. I'll adapt,"  he said as he lifted another slice of the custom-ordered pizza with extra light sauce from the box from Regina's Pizzeria.  The rest of us were eating his mother's food (I saved all my points for the day and had tiny portions and then helped out with the dishes to take my mind off food).

This next year should be a culinary adventure for this kid. 
Meanwhile, as I write, he's probably stuffing protein bars in his suitcase.

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