Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cheeseburgers vs. Broccoli

As I had stated, my father’s adrenaline had been running high by the time I was born, and not simply due to the complications. With a four year old son, a full-time job, and a wife at the hospital, my father did a desparate thing. Grandma Materna, my maternal grandmother, came up from New Jersey to stay at my parents little white ranch at 1 Evening Star Drive. She would cook, clean, take care of Ernie, and help while my mother and I were at the hospital. As I begin telling this classic family story, it is essential to know that, unlike sitcoms, in-law relations in my family are quite amiable. Family is family as long as my family is concerned.
Still, this nugget of family history emerges whenever somebody discusses my birth, my finicky eating habits, or the fact that my siblings eat most vegetables. Because my parents worked far from home, and my father was in Army reserves, my brother often got Burger King or Duchess as a reward for being such a good boy. He always was the good one, and that is just fine. So, Ernie got cheeseburgers on the way home from day care, or spending the day with our great aunt, as my parents worked. This was well before the McDonaldization of America (see the documentary Supersize Me (see
Grandma is an excellent cook. She ran both a school and bank cafeteria, where all the food was made from scratch. Gram also owned her own catering business. Family does not leave Grandma without having eaten naleśniki (say pol-o-chin-key…they are like crepes, but Polish and filled with sugar) or stuffed cabbage. Pierogi are just for Christmas.
While Grandma was watching Ernie, she tried to feed him broccoli. Ernie did not want to eat broccoli. She refused to give him anything else, as our mother had clearly spoiled my brother in the eyes of my grandmother.
When my father came home from the hospital one evening, Grandma informed him of the spoiled brat living in my parents’ home. Ernie would not eat the perfectly good food that she cooked for him. Instead, he wanted, “…that American creation on which [to] feed.
[1]" According to family lore, the following argument took place between my father and grandma, however the only other witness was my, then, four year old brother.

“All he wants to eat is cheeseburgers.”

“Then feed him cheeseburgers!”

“He won’t eat his vegetables. I am not going to spoil him for his mother.”

“His mother is in the hospital. Who knows what will happen. If the kid wants cheeseburgers, feed him cheeseburgers!”
This is the comic relief in the tension that surrounded my birth. My grandmother refused to relent, and my father lost that argument. To this day, my brother eats broccoli, and even cauliflower. My sister eats broccoli, too!
I hate broccoli. I detest the smell of cooked broccoli, and the taste is worse. In the past, I have tried both raw and cooked broccoli. It is too hard to stomach.
Most of my wife’s family understands that I dislike it, even though both of our families don’t understand how anyone could not like broccoli. If broccoli has been served at my in-laws, I have been lucky enough to have a bowl of carrots, corn, or green beans made for me. My wife, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law are all great about the fact that I eat very few vegetables. The list grew three-fold after Stacey and I began dating. Still, in the few instances that her grandmother has been present, and I have had my own vegetables, she always inquires as to why I will not just eat the broccoli.
With the world as my witness, let it be said…To me, broccoli smells like oppression! YOU CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY MY FREEDOM!!!

[1] Jimmy Buffet. “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Son of a Sailor. MCA, 1978.

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