Let me start off by apologizing in advance to those of you who are vegetarians or vegans. Or who don’t eat red meat. Tonight is a night for meat as metaphor. I’m sorry – it’s where my ping pong brain is leading me.
I’ve been staring at tonight’s title, and I keep going back to my mom’s kosher butcher in Queens. “Choice Cuts,” his sign said. I always wondered what that meant. Did people chose to cut themselves? Was it like a paper cut? Or the time when I used a spoon while helping my mom grind meat on her MixMaster with the meat grinder attachment, and was rewarded with a horrible cut on my hand?
I learned later what the butcher meant – he was talking about higher quality meat, from different parts of the cow. Maybe he used the USDA definition. Maybe his own. I was relieved to know that it had nothing to do with people cutting themselves. (And, oh God – that has such a different, and more horrible, meaning than when I was little.)
Now I can get to what I meant this post to be about, because it’s sort of related to the “choice cuts” of my childhood. Healing, I think, requires “choice” choices. High quality ones. That will sit better with you. That you can chew on easily, without too much gristle. Not too tough to swallow.
Until the last five or so years, I don’t think I was making those high-quality choices. Maybe they needed aging before I acted on them. Maybe I wasn’t cooking them well. Maybe I should have cooked them longer. Maybe they were just the wrong choices for me. Maybe I should have been a metaphorical vegetarian, and not made the choices I did. Maybe they were too rich for my blood. Or not rich enough. I can’t be sure. I know they were wrong. Wrong-headed. I was wrung dry by them.
It’s funny – my father always insisted on the best meat. The choicest cuts. His other choices weren’t always of the highest quality. Especially when I was three. Especially when he was drunk. Especially when he acted as if he hated me. Especially when he hated himself.
I learned a lot from my father. A lot of wonderful things. So much of the best of me is from him. My warmth, my generosity, my nurturing. I also learned some tough lessons from him. The toughest one of all was my lack of trust in people. That one lesson has probably cost me the most in my life. In decisions I have made. In relationships. In my overall well-being.
These days, I am working to mend my ways. Discard the detritus, as the butcher discarded the excess fat when he cut the meat for my mom. Trim and trim until I have the choicest choices I can choose. Let them cook until they’re done. And savor.
Tomorrow – the last post in this series: “Chuckles, Chortles, Grins, and Guffaws – Laughter IS the Best Medicine.”