I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

That you should never need for Meals on Wheels.

You remember Clara, right?

My 96-year-old neighbor, who's sharp as a tack...? The old girl lives alone, and goes about her business during the day, using her rolling walker, in gigantic black sunglasses and a little white sweater... even when it's 100 degrees outside. She's one of the last of the old, old, OLD guard. I think she's lived on Miami Beach since approximately when Johnson was president... ANDREW JOHNSON! (rimshot! Try the veal!) and back when color TV was a novelty, and the word "negro" was a socially acceptable way to address people of color. She speaks Yiddish. YIDDISH. I thought everyone who spoke Yiddish is dead.

Part of Clara's schtick is that she needs to feed me. Pushing 100, born the year after the Titanic sank, and she always tries to make me take something when I visit - a container of cut-up watermelon, "I'm not gonna eat it," she says, to a piece of beef, "I'm not gonna eat it," she says, to a thing of chicken and vegetable soup she made, "I'm not gonna eat it," she says.

Usually I side step her entreaties to take food - she's a MILLION years old, and I don't need it.

But sometimes, I cave, and I walk out of her place with some little container of something, which I forget about, because I don't need chicken and vegetable soup, leave in my fridge, because I can't bear to throw it out (it's a shame to waste!) and then it goes bad and I have to.

I don't know how one gets signed up for Meals on Wheels, but she just became a Member. Now, when I think of Meals on Wheels, I think of daily deliveries of Airplane food, which, I'm not gonna lie, is sort of what I imagine Heaven is like. I love Airplane food. Old time Airplane food - on the trays, with the silverware, and the little dishes of things? Hot, foil-covered lasagna? Egg puff with smoked Gouda center? Eclairs for dessert? (Think circa 1986).

My idea of Meals on Wheels was WRONG.

The other day, she pulled me over and asked, "Can you help me?" "Of course," I told her...

And with that wry twinkle in her eye, she opened up her freezer and said, "I get these meals. I just joined last week. I can't eat 'em. I need you to take them."

Stacked in her freezer, with other edible food, were black oven-safe trays, with three compartments.

"They're too tough. I can't chew them. And also, I'm not used to the food. I can't eat 'em. You take; you work so hard, and so late."

Laughing incredulously, I said, "Clara, I cannot take your Meals on Wheels!"

Ignoring me, she started unloading them out of the freezer.

"They're Kosher! They're clean! Look! Look on the package! Packed in a Glatt Kosher facility! The food is the best quality! Double sealed! You just take off the outside plastic, and put it in the Machine, and then you eat it!"

"Clara, these are YOUR meals, I CAN'T take them from you!" I said, laughing at her jokey earnestness.

We went back and forth, until she coughed up the truth: "I'm not gonna eat them. They're terrible! Here, take a couple, you'll see if you like them! If nothing else, you'll eat the sides - the sides are okay. But feh! I ate this beef stew! It was so chewy, I couldn't eat it! Awful!"

Eventually, I caved and took two, telling her that it was unthinkable that I'd take all of them (especially since one was salmon, and I don't eat fish...)

"If you like, I get seven of them on Mondays!" she told me.

I trooped home with two - beef stew with green beans and red bliss potatoes, and the other one is some pasta with vegetables.

Two minutes later, I heard a knock on my door. I looked out the peep hole and saw a tuft of white hair.

"I forgot to give you the best part," she said, waving two packets of Milano cookies at me.

Tonight, I was home late enough, and desperate enough to crack into the first of the two meals.

Clara was right.

They're terrible.

The green beans, were frozen, microwaved green beans. The potatoes needed salt and... flavor, but eh.

But the Beef stew. Mein gott. It was a shandeh.

The beef looked like two semi-round domes of poop. Maybe it was flanken, a cut of meat people my age probably have never experienced. For good reason. It was tough, and fatty, and run through with gristle. The sauce it was in was...okay (take that with a grain of salt - remember, I love airplane food) but the beef was unpalateable. I ended up throwing most of it away.

But I guess when it's your only hot meal of the day, it's probably better than nothing.

Which is really sad.

Know what the other sad thing is?

I know I'm not going to weasel my out of more forced "donations" from Clara.

So, if you ever want to try some Meals on Wheels...

Gimmie a jingle.