The Dangers of MSG

Felix Lulu and Me, circa 1996

I have a poignantly relevant story to share with you about nutritious food. It involves the time in which my father drove his wife, daughter, and three cats into a pond.

When I was 12, somewhere in the vicinity of the mid ‘90s, my parents thought a weekend out of the city would be nice, and schlepped me from New York City to a house in Connecticut in a fire-engine-red Volvo station wagon named Felix Lulu.

My dad has a tendency to over-pack, so you can imagine our Volv crammed with L.L. Bean tote bags smooshed to the brim with books on libraries of the Northeast, museums of New England, and guides on how to track appropriate animal poop.  Also something on birds.  Not to mention a leftover chicken (mostly carcass), a carton of milk stapled shut, toilet paper, shampoo, and a lifetime supply of Total Whole Grain cereal. Somewhere in there was my backpack and possibly my mother’s purse.

On the way, we found a place to stop for pizza and stretch our legs. I remember ordering the “Salad Pizza” distinctly, because I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why a 12-year-old would choose the slice of pizza that was topped with iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, and black olives. But therein lies the mystery of our blog. The pizza was dynamite, though we haven’t been back since.

Soon after the old man had begun driving again I curled up in the back seat and fell asleep on Johnson’s cat box (Johnson got his own box due to his size, while Claire and Fred were forced to share. I was lucky enough to be stashed between the three of them). My mom settled in for a nice nap in the front. And not long after, my dad at the wheel, decided to join in the snoozing. The three of us awoke about the time the nose of Felix Lulu was headed directly into a shallow body of water, at which point my dad swerved. (Good instincts, Pop.) So the passenger’s side of the car was several feet in water, sinking slowly, while the driver’s side managed to bank somewhat off the pond.

For what seemed like a few minutes the three of us stared at water splashing on the windshield not discussing said events – maybe enjoying country life: tweeting birds overhead, blubbering bass passing by our right-side windows – before a tiny voice in the backseat suggested, “Shouldn’t we get out of the car?”

My folks seemed to think this was a good enough idea and my dad and I clambered out the left side of the car and shut our doors. Leaving my mother descending with Felix Lulu.

And my mom, being of strong will and enjoying the occasional farce, managed to crawl over the seats to let herself out all on her own. An Amazon, that one.  Then, as seemed to be our demeanor, we all stood on the bank watching the car sink slowly down into the muck.

Whereupon the 12-year-old chimed in again: “Shouldn’t we get the cats?”

So we all climbed back in the sinking car to retrieve three fat fuzzy animals who really hate the water and would not have appreciated a swim.

Eventually the local fire department showed up and addressed our complete lack of injuries and the comedy of three New Yorkers standing on a country road with several cats and more than a few boxes of Total cereal. My dad likes to tell me that one of the firemen politely offered to throw my backpack back into the pond for $10, whereupon I retorted: “Hell, for $10 I’ll throw it in myself.” But this is a complete fabrication. Possibly water poisoning hallucinations.

We survived to tell the tale, but this promptly ended my love affair with the countryside.

Oh, and how is this relevant to food, you might ask?  Dad insists there was MSG in the pizza which put him to sleep. MSG in pizza. Really bad news. Beware.