“I rented a room in a nice house a while back, and I had a wonderful Filipina landlord who was very generous to her tenants. As is Filipino culture apparently, it is imperative that everyone under your roof is well-fed at all times. So it was great, a constant supply of cooked rice, tilapia, sausage, as well as some of the more exotic Filipino foods. I actually liked the blood soup, and my taste buds have beholden the glorious taste of beef glazed with peanut butter. Even had a couple belut, which is a hard-boiled duck egg with a partially grown fetus inside, so you get a little crunchy surprise.
But the one thing she cooked that knocked me over and I just could not for the life of me finish was a fish casserole. I was always appreciative of food I received, and her being a direct Filipino immigrant, I knew there was heck to pay one way or another if somebody finds a free meal unsatisfactory. The first bite was just such a surprise, an explosion of fishy taste with an overabundance of salt that immediately dehydrated my mouth. It was absolutely inedible.
I was hoping somebody would point out that something was wrong, but I then just assumed that maybe I got a pocket of concentrated juices and salt that just congealed in a corner like Satan’s jello. Everyone around me was enjoying it normally, I just had to have gotten a bad piece.
So I took a bite from the other end of the piece. And it was even worse. Even saltier, even fishier, it was like somebody compressed Dutch Harbor into a diabolical marble of antimatter and I just chomped down into it. I really was about to throw up, the fish smell was just overpowering.
I took that second bite. That was the most polite thing I will ever do for another human being in my life. I then pretend to check my phone, and pretend that I got an urgent text from a friend, and excuse myself. But I know I can’t just leave the fish casserole sitting there uneaten while I cower away hungry and coughing up salt in my room.
So in a wild gambit I say, ‘Hey, I got to take this, but you don’t mind if I finish this…over in my, uh…room?’
My landlord smiles warmly, that welcoming wonderful grin.
‘Sure, go ahead dear,’ she says sweetly.
Now I feel even worse. She just wants to see me happy, and she’s so nice to all her tenants and I’m about to be a huge butt by lying to her and privately disposing of that casserole without her finding out.
But I take another look at that dish. The smell hits me again. Logical thinking and empathy are out the door, Darwinian instinct takes over, and I do what I must.
Ten minutes later, as I’m hearing dishes clearing out, I make my move. I duck into the shared bathroom with my plate in hand, locking the door behind me. I’ve cut it up into three pieces, and three flushes later it is gone. I duck back into my room, count to 10, then come back out with empty plate in hand.
‘Ah, hey!’ My landlord notices. ‘You ate it all in ten minutes? Here, I can get you another if you want.’
Jesus Christ, come on. I already lied to this wonderful woman once and defiled both her cooking and the shared bathroom. I have to lie to her again!?
I have to lie to her again.
‘Yeah sorry, my friend’s having some girlfriend issues,’ I lie through my teeth, ‘I uhh…’
The idea hits me. “‘ have to go give him some company.’
“Okay!” My landlord warmly smiles again, erroneously thinking about such a good man I am. ‘If you get too trashed to drive, call me I can drive you home safe.’
I drove off. I went three blocks down the main road, pulling into a Jack in the Box, and ordered a burger and curly fries. All the while, feeling crippled with guilt and self-loathing. Just imagining her face if she found out I flushed a meal she worked so hard on to feed me out of the kindness of her own heart, that I ditched her at the table of her own meal on a fabricated lie, just to see her warm welcoming smile fade into a disappointed saddened scowl, it was overwhelming my psyche.
I was just too scared to honestly say ‘Thank you very much but this is actually too salty and fishy for my own tastes, somebody else could have my piece if they wish.’
And because of the guilt, the disappointment in myself, and that pitiful attempt as misguided politeness, that burger and curly fries was the worst meal I ever ate.”