Every morning, I eat a banana for breakfast. My banana is not a gluten free-range banana. Nor is it a banana with a sticker that proclaims, “No tarantulas were harmed in the picking of this fruit.” It is a plain old banana.
When did eating become so complicated?
My paternal grandparents, Santa and Sebastiano, cooked simple dishes based on recipes straight from the Old Country. Some of my earliest and most traumatic food-related memories are based on meals served in their apartment.
Thirteen years ago I was a teacher in a classroom of sixth graders in Culpeper, Virginia, an hour from Washington, D.C. When the first plane flew into the towers, I was notified by the principal, in subdued tones at the classroom doorway, of the unfolding tragedy, our voices lost in the din of migrating desks and exploding backpacks. I was instructed not to inform students of that morning's events. I knew that at least one child had a father working at the Pentagon.
Classes are starting, which means that I’m likely only weeks away from that moment—as inevitable as first-week crushes and pasta-bar hangovers—when a student walks into my office, paper in hand, and says, “I don’t understand. Just tell me what you want.”
Years ago, right before an end-of-the-term field trip, my son brought home a notice from his middle school. The body of the letter included the usual information: dates, cost, arrival and departure times. But, the last line contained an ominous warning.