Sunday, September 21, 2008

Celery and Psychology

Now there’s not a lot of things in this world that I won’t eat (Dolphin on toast anybody?) and there’s very few things I won’t try. In fact the only time I’ve ever been put off eating something merely by knowing what it was (other than arsenic or cyanide that is – we’re taking about stuff that’s classed by at least some culture as food) was as a young man travelling in Poland when faced with a bowl of soup with bits floating in it. After much pigeon English and sign language I had determined the bits were from an animal, probably a pig, and having questioned further, as there was no pork cut that I knew of that had a hexagonal pattern on in, it transpired that the floating bits were in fact pig’s stomach lining. I still managed to drink the broth it was in but there was a large pile of (no longer floating) bits left in the bottom of my bowl.
These days a hexagonal stomach animal body part probably wouldn’t phase me at all, especially as having just returned from Greece were for the first time the squid served was complete with those really long couple of tentacles ending in the big cluster of suckers. Normally those bits seem to be missing, but down the hatch there went and with a light batter and a touch of lemon juice, delicious they were too.
No, food is one of the great delights to living, but there is one food-stuff that is too terrible a taste for even me to stomach – hexagonally patterned or not. That item is the dreaded celery! It manages to contaminate other foods even on different shelves in the same fridge with its insidious flavour, and only intense boiling and chopping up into very tiny pieces in a stew or something will allow it to pass my lips at all. As you may guess I’m a careful man when it comes to selecting which strips of pale green salad like stuff to add to the crispy duck pancake before scoffing with a splash of plum sauce.
And so, it was a tad of a disappointment on my flight home from Athens with KLM to discover that the main content of the invitingly titled food box “Selected Delights” that was handed out once cruising altitude was established, was ….a celery salad. Not just a salad with celery in it, but at least half of the thing was pure celery, and the rest of the stuff cut up so small that it had totally absorbed the celery flavour and might as well have had that crinkly edge too.
Now here’s where an interesting thing happened and incidentally why the word psychology appears in the title (you were wondering, weren’t you?). Even though the salad tub was relatively small, together with a bread roll and a couple of biscuits & cheese also supplied, it probably would have sustained me well enough, and indeed as the salad was sealed and hence had not yet infected the bread, cheese etc, I did eat those. But the result of having a little bowl of salad sat in front of me at the start of the 3 hour flight which I knew was impossible to eat, was to suddenly make me as ravenously hungry as I could possibly be. I was now incapable of thinking of anything else other than food. Was there any way I could con another bread roll out of the cabin crew to make up? Could I look pleading and puppy like through the curtain to business class in case the posher cabin staff might take pity on me? Can I justify the exorbitant price of a can of Dutch waffles from the duty free?
In the end I continue to sit in my economy seat feeling harder done by when the smells of the hot dishes being served to the business class travellers wafts through the gap in the curtain, and I wonder about the merits of a strongly worded letter to KLM’s catering department decrying their flagrant use of what is widely known as a universally hated bit of vegetation.
Or then again, perhaps I’ll just head to McDonalds when I land at Schipol.