Perhaps everyone recalls episodes from their childhood that seem so dear now, but were detested at the time in which they were actually occurring. As of late, I am beginning to remember many moments from my youth, specifically those revolving around food, but not all were loathsome even then. I nostalgically remember the image of my mother in our small, colorful kitchen. She did not hesitate to share her knowledge of food, but she also did not make a performance of it. It was usually in subtle ways, like cleaning spinach leaves on both sides under running water, with an explanation that bugs like to hide on the underside of the leaf, where I would learn about spinach and how she was going to prepare it. Did Popeye also have to wash his spinach, I would inquire, but there was not always time for all of my questions.

I thrived when this knowledge was shared with me, which I am sure I made a game out of as my imagination ran wild with almost anything. I held a secret from the adult world, although I do not know how much of secret it could have been, as I rather enjoyed boasting about my newly acquired facts. Leeks should be cleaned thoroughly because they grow in sandy soil, and eating sand makes your teeth grind, which is very unsatisfactory for everyone, I would constantly note, mimicking my mother’s cautious tone as best I could. I took heed to this warning myself, and had ingrained in my mind a previously calamitous meal of sandy, overcooked beets (which I was already repulsed by to begin with), and did not wish to recreate the catastrophe.  But leeks on the other hand, I always adored and dutifully ate in all of their presented states. My fascination was mostly founded in the old wives’ tale that if you ate the center of the leek (the stalk), you would become deaf.

I loved superstitions, and most of all, breaking them. I proudly remember eating fish and dairy at the same time. Lest I forget, this resulted in others following my lead, and disruptions on at least two family tables of what had previously been calm, weekly fish dinners without dairy. But something about going deaf made me resist the temptation of the leeks. Let me elucidate, yes- a small part of me still wanted to try it, and would practice the worst outcome. I began often by cupping my ears with my hands to imagine going deaf, or plugging them up with my index fingers, but I could still hear birds chirping or cars going by. Most terrifyingly, I could hear my invariable heartbeat thumping. I could not, for all the imaginative worlds that I created, see one without the ability of sound. So I made sure to clean leeks well, and remove the middle part, if there was one. But I would not bite into one, no matter the pressure of fellow peers. I am being chary, I would tell anyone who asked, in a state of angst and mortification. I would vanquish other superstitions, but not this one, and each time I cook leeks, I am reminded of this memory.


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