Onion Rings and Macaroni Salad

Indira Ganesan, The fry, the fat, 2019

Sometimes it is cold macaroni salad and hot onion rings, swirled together with sriracha. Sometimes your flight is delayed, so you circle the airport, always choosing the wrong way and retracing your steps, and find a Wahlburgers. You have vaguely heard about it as a good place to eat at Logan airport. You pass on the impossible burger because you don’t want your food to taste like meat, because what would be the point? You are vegetarian, raised by vegetarian parents, in a family has been most likely vegetarian for centuries. You remember being excited learning about the English Cranks, as if white vegetarians gave you permission to be who you were in meat-eating America. Meat-eating America didn’t believe you could survive with meat. A skeptical pediatrician subscribed an egg a day, which you dutifully and reluctantly ate at lunch watching Dennis the Menace on TV. You never knew what My Three Sons ate, or the kids in Family Affair, but you knew enough to distrust food early on. You would spend years trying to convince your mother that hippies were vegetarian, and later learn that tofu existed, and macrobiotics, that somewhere, probably California, people ate well. so as a kid you ate sambar and rice; rasam and rice; spiced vegetables; and yogurt and rice with lemon or mango pickle. You drank water. Sometimes as a treat you got spaghetti, a grilled cheese, a tomato sandwich, or a Swanson’s TV dinner with macaroni and cheese. As a teenager, your father brought home falafel and eggplant parm, and sometimes there was pizza. You didn’t become interested in food until you began to cook, and started reading Madhur Jaffrey, and Moosewood, and the Epicurean cookbooks. Deborah Madison was introduced to you as well, and you began to love to cook for other people. You lived in the Hamptons, only you called it Long Island, and started teaching food literature, and started collecting cookbooks to read at night. Still, alone, you wound up craving grilled cheese and pizza, and realized that America indelibly  introduced your family to cheese. And you love cheese. But here you are, eating mayonnaise-drenched and deep fried food, with a ginger ale, until you get tired of eating it, and look for chocolate, and wait for your flight, which departs a few hours later.

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