Last week was a busy week at my house, so I didn’t get the chance to go grocery shopping. This meant that the only food available to the people who live in my house (or available to the people who live in my house and don’t have jobs, and therefore don’t have any money), was food that you had to cook. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that we were down to our last sack of beans and slab of hard tack; I’m saying that the only food available was things that required you to read the directions on the back of the box or can. In other words (actually, in my 14-year-old son Clyde’s words), there was nothing to eat.
By now both of my children have heard me tell the story of the toddler who survived on her own for a week by eating condiments often enough that they don’t complain directly to me about “starving” anymore, but rather just mutter bitterly under their breath about “no food” as they creep around the kitchen in the middle of the night. (Apparently teenagers have the same feeding habits as bedbugs. Which explains why they are just as welcome in fine hotels.) Of course, this is more true for my son, Clyde, than my daughter, Clementine, probably because, at 5’2”, Clementine has never really felt hunger the way her 5’10” (and counting) brother has. For her adolescence meant the addition of maybe twenty pounds and two inches; for him it looks to be more like a hundred pounds and a foot and a half. (I’ve seen werewolf movies with less brutal transformations.)
This is all just to say that when Clyde woke us up in the middle of the night last week to ask for cooking tips, we weren’t surprised. Or even upset. (It’s surprising what you can get used to.) What was surprising, though, and not just a little upsetting, was what Clyde was asking us, because his question revealed just how unacquainted with actual food he really is. And that’s on me.
His question? Holding out a box he had just mined from the freezer, he asked us plaintively, “How do you cook…cee-oh-dee?”
We squinted at him and his prize blearily for a second before my husband laughed and said, “Cod. It’s called cod. And it’s a fish.”
“So it’s meat?” Clyde asked hopefully.
I was going to start an explanation of Vatican II, and how interesting it is that something as seemingly immutable as the word of God can change over the years when my husband, apparently caring more for sleeping than philosophizing, cut me off with an abrupt, “Yes. And read the directions on the back of the box.”
Either the directions were written by a sadist, or Clyde didn’t actually read them, because the subsequent nuking that poor frozen fish was subjected to was brutal. The fish swimming in the waters off of Fukushima probably received less radiation. Of course, none of that deterred Clyde from eating it after it was “done.” Or from eating the next three boxes he pulled out of the freezer after that. (At least he eats what he hunts.)
Since that night I’ve had people explain to me that it is perfectly reasonable for a boy Clyde’s age to have only ever seen the letters “cee oh dee” used as a reference to the game, Call of Duty, but somehow, despite the game’s apparent massive popularity, that isn’t much of a comfort, seeing as how the fish we all call “cod” has been around a few thousand years longer. (Under that name, at least. I’m sure the fish itself has been around for several hundred thousand years. Only half of which have been spent in my freezer.)
I guess the only real lesson I can take from all of this is that, apparently, my teenage son can forage at least as well as a toddler. For my next experiment I think I’ll see which one does better with the sack of beans.