It’s Not From The Food! I Swear!

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite cousins who I love dearly. (You know who you are!) The topic is finding humor in situations that aren’t particularly funny. (Usually after the fact.)

I’ll start by telling you all that my house is the party house. We have a huge deck, a screened in porch, and an oversized family room. Every year my family and I host all the major holiday gatherings. And even though, from time to time I complain about all the work involved, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now I’m not a great cook, but over the years I’ve perfected a few dishes….turkey, chicken soup with matzo balls, and matzo kugel. And these delectable treats were on the menu for my annual Passover seder held this past Tuesday.

So after hitting the seder highlights, my family, friends, and I partook of the festive meal I’d prepared. Afterwards, while I was doing the dishes, my cousin walked into the kitchen complaining she didn’t feel well. She grabbed onto my arm for support, and I assisted her into the family room. I got her settled on my new couch, elevated her feet on my new coffee table, and got her a cold compress for her head. I ran for my mother-in-law, also a nurse, but didn’t need anyone to tell me that my cousin did not look at all well.

Was it my food? I wondered. Had I purchased a diseased bird? Had I served my loved ones tainted turkey? I strained my brain to remember the signs and symptoms of food poisoning. Botulism. Listeria. There were so many possibilities. I considered a Google search, but after another quick glance at the gray color of my beloved cousin’s skin, opted to speed dial 911 to get some trained professionals on site PDQ (pretty damn quick).

While on the line with the 911 operator, I did a quick head count to make sure no one else had succumbed to a foodborne illness. I started to feel nauseous. I considered telling the operator to send a fleet of ambulances because I had a potential  culinary catastrophe on my hands, with the possibility of mass casualties. (Well, fifteen total. But there was no way we could all squeeze into one ambulance.) I started to sweat.

I took a calming breath, surveyed the crowd once more, and decided not to overreact. The first responder arrived, lights flashing. I told him what happened. “After our Passover meal my cousin felt sick. It’s not from the food. I swear. Look, everyone else is fine. I think it’s her heart.” Yeah. That’s it. Because no way did I want to be responsible.

The EMTs arrived, lights flashing. I gave them the same schpeil…… “It’s not from the food! I swear!”

The police arrived, lights flashing. I gave my account of what happened. “……It’s not from the food! I swear!” The officer gave me his ‘just the facts ma’am’ look. I prattled on. He summarized, “So she fell ill after eating.” I glared at him. He smirked. I made a mental note of his badge number.

Mobile Life arrived, lights flashing, bringing the total number of strangers in my family room up to about eight. By that time my cousin looked much better. And despite one paramedic taking her blood pressure while another attached EKG leads to her chest, that dear sweet woman came to my defense muttering through her oxygen mask, “It really wasn’t from the food. The food was delicious.”

I wanted to scream out , “See. I told you so!” I’d been vindicated. Whew! I was off the hook!

But still…. when the phone rang in the middle of it all, and I saw my neighbor’s number on my caller ID, I picked up the phone and immediately said, “It’s not from the food. I swear!”

Prior to my cousin leaving for the ER, she announced she’d eaten half a pickle and maybe that was the cause of her ailment. I made a mental note to remove pickles from the menu of all future parties.

Of course I’ve embellished a factoid here and there for effect. And at the time, my cousin’s condition was anything but funny. But when I look back on it and think about my irrational fear that I was somehow responsible for her falling ill, and the measures I took to clear my good hostess name, I now get a bit of a chuckle.

I’m happy to say all turned out okay in the end. No one else reported feeling anything more than the satisfactory fullness that accompanies an EXCELLENT meal, and my cousin is doing well.

Does anyone have a holiday story you’d like to share? Or a serious situation that, after it was all over, tickled your funny bone?

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  • Dale
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    I was there!! I'm a reliable witness!

    While it was frightening to see a loved one in distress, and thankfully she was ok, I can attest to Wendy's calm and compassionate demeanor while subtly uttering her mantra "It wasn't the food! I swear!"

    As I stood in the background, I had to suppress a slight urge to present a platter of food to the EMTs who had joined our holiday gathering…just to see if there would be any (brave) takers…to call their bluff in case there were any doubters.

    On the drive home, my husband and I commented that it was the first time we had ever left Wendy's house without a delicious plate of left overs… Apparently the food was so good, there were none!!!

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

    Actually, I baked a bigger bird than usual this year and there was plenty of turkey left over. I didn't hand it out on the off chance the police needed it for evidence….or the health department needed to culture it!

  • Anonymous
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 12:55 AM | Permalink

    I had a similar experience once happen to me. I was at a Thanksgiving dinner at my Shvegerin in Fishkill N.Y.
    I was supposed to bring a farm fresh Amish turkey. When I got to her house my Shvegerin
    immediately sticks her index finger up the turkey's tuchas, and twirls it. She then looks at the me and yells, "This is a New Jersey Turkey. I said I wanted a farm fresh Amish turkey, Dummy!"

    I left her house and drove to the store to get another Turkey. Once back at I presented the second Turkey and my Shvegerin sticks her finger is the second Turkey she yells,

    "This is even worse then the first, it is an Ohio Turkey. I said I wanted a farm fresh Amish . How dumb can you be?"

    I then went out an got a third Turkey and said,

    "I hope this is what you want, it's the last Turkey I could find.

    After sitcking her finger up the behind of the third turkey she says, "Ah! This is a a farm fresh Amish Turkey."

    As my Shvegerin started to prepare the Turkey she turns to me and said, "Your'e not too bright, are you! Where are you from, any way?"

    I bend down with my tuchas facing her and says, "Here! You tell me!"

    The moral of the story is to go with a Kosher Turkey, or Kush in toches arein.

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 2:05 AM | Permalink

    I'm……speechless. Absolutely speechless. Thanks for stopping by, Rick. I'm assuming this is from you!

  • Regina Richards
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

    Funny Food Stories. Love 'em. Thanks Wendy and Anonymous.

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 3:32 PM | Permalink

    I don't know if the story was as funny as some I've seen on your blog, Regina, but I tried. Hope you had a nice holiday!

  • Christine
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 3:55 PM | Permalink

    Hi Wendy: I haven't had a bad holiday food experience, but I did once invite a single friend over, male gourmet cook, to our house for din din. I make pork tenderloin dish with all the sides in a pan and bake in the oven. When I took it out, my wrist twisted and the whole think FELL TO THE GROUND IN FRONT OF MY FRIEND. Horrified, I stared at the mess and didn't know what to do. He calmly scooped it up, said, five second rule isn't broken, and we ate din din anyway.

    Great guy!

    Like your inspirations, too. Might have to copy them for my happy closet wall.

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted April 4, 2010 at 4:59 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for stopping by, Christine! I practice the five second rule on a regular basis….depending on the situation, I've been known to extend it to ten!!!

  • Celeste Deveney
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 2:54 AM | Permalink

    Hi Wendy,

    You don't know me, but I saw the note on one of my writer's loops and I followed it. Really enjoyed your story. Here's one to chew on: My husband and I moved to Seattle about 10 years ago and our first Thanksgiving there we invited a ton of people over to dinner in our new home (first house ever too!) I even invited my old boss from Chicago who made the trip with her husband.
    I made a turkey and about a million side dishes and pies etc. but I forgot to set the table till the last minute, and when I finally did, I realized we didn't have any decent looking glasses – not one – not even a wine glass. We'd been moving in and living with out them for so long, I simply hadn't noticed. We must have lost them in transit during the move, but at that point, there was nothing we could do about it. So we sat down to my formally set table w/ the good Limoges china, the polished silverware, and an assortment of plastic souvenir glasses from baseball and football games all over the country.
    Ten years later and I'm still laughing at myself!

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 4:51 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for visiting, Celeste. And for sharing your story!

  • susanwilson44
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    Hi Wendy,
    thanks for your post on my blog. Have read your food stories – you are very brave having all those people for dinner. I am the world's worst cook and if it had my house there is no doubt – it would have been the food!
    I felt I hardly got time to say anything at the pitch. Have sent chapters in but haven't heard anything back yet. So I'm dead jealous! What have they asked you to revise? I'm curious as I can see from your blog you've had lots of good feedback on your chapters and entered them in competitions. I'll let you know if I hear anything x

  • Adrienne Giordano
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

    Hi Wendy. Great post. It gave me a giggle!

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for visiting Susan and Adrienne. Giggles are what I'm going for!!!

  • kimberlyloomis
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 9:02 PM | Permalink

    Hi Wendy,

    I don't have a story to share but I did very much enjoy yours! Thanks for sharing!

  • Wendy Marcus
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for stopping by, Kimberly! Knowing people enjoy my writing makes it all worthwhile.

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