30: The Epic of Ipecac

30: The Epic of Ipecac

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game

The Epic of Ipecac

Love is being stupid together.

~Paul Valery

It started out as a fine date, with the two of us spending an enjoyable afternoon together. When we arrived back at my parents’ house, I offered to make dinner. Prior to proposing such an endeavor, I should have inventoried my skills—or rather, lack thereof—in the cooking department. Reflecting upon past catastrophes might have saved us some trouble.

My culinary failures were many—like the barbeque sauce incident, when my thirteen-year-old self added a whole cup rather than a quarter cup of sugar. My mom quickly discovered my sugary mistake, added more of the other ingredients to compensate, and created a lifetime supply of frozen barbeque sauce.

Because of this, I had declared a lifelong abstinence from all cooking-related activities. It seemed logical. My experiences in cookery always ended with the same outcome—disaster. So nobody wanted me at the helm of a meal anyway.

But years later, in the throws of love, my culinary revulsion fell by the wayside. Make good meals—win a man’s heart. There I stood, in that mystifying place called the kitchen, preparing chicken sandwiches for my dinner date. To my surprise, the poultry cooked much quicker than anticipated. I slapped the chicken onto buns, added lettuce, mayo, and tomatoes, and voila—good to go.

But after eating a few bites, we realized the chicken tasted strange. And chewy. My boyfriend thought the meat looked raw.

“Did you cook it all the way?” he asked, eyeing the chicken suspiciously.

Of course I had. Hadn’t I? The meat did look kind of shiny. I showed Mom the sandwiches. Her eyes bugged out.

“You didn’t eat that, did you?” she exclaimed.

Mom’s words came out part question, part disbelief, and all horror. She quickly dialed the local pharmacist, who emphasized the importance of immediately expelling all of the raw chicken to prevent contracting salmonella. He insisted on a gut-wrenching remedy—syrup of ipecac. After Mom returned with the prescribed antidote, my lucky date and I each took a dose. For those unfamiliar with the power of ipecac, internal combustion happens instantaneously. Like a match igniting gasoline, it greets the target’s unfortunate abdomen without delay.

Dashing to the bathroom—our only bathroom—I encountered a closed door. I managed one frantic knock before barging in on my ten-year-old sister engrossed in reading the daily newspaper. Noticing my desperate face and hand firmly clamped over my mouth, her initial outrage swiftly dissolved into panic. My sister scrambled, flinging the newspaper and fleeing seconds before the inevitable happened. And the inevitable happened—again, and again, and again. During a brief intermission, I searched for my unfortunate dinner guest. I spotted him outside, behind a wild cherry tree encircled with purple violets, also suffering the consequences of ipecac.

Believe it or not, I actually tried my hand at cooking again. Even more surprising, my victim willingly sampled it. With watering eyes, my boyfriend graciously smiled through the first few bites of peppercorn steak—until the quarter-inch-thick peppercorn breading finally overcame his senses. After that, he kindly choked down spaghetti sauce with the consistency of mortar. I still remember the wooden spoon standing upright in the sauce.

Somewhere along the line, I started to enjoy cooking. Perhaps the challenge piqued my interest. Then miracle of miracles, my finished products improved, and eventually, people started complimenting my meals rather than feigning no appetite. But regardless of marked improvement, for a long time, whenever chicken made its triumphant appearance on the dinner table, the question always arose.

“Is it cooked all the way through?” he would ask, warily peering at the center.

His willingness to even try a bite of the bird demonstrated considerable kindness. Not to mention courage. That brave soul, who became my husband, no longer questions the safety of my chicken. But memories of that dinner date, and subsequent dinner dates when he bravely sampled my life-threatening meals, led me to a conclusion: In my experience, the way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach. The way to a man’s stomach is through his heart.

~Lisa Mackinder

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