I don’t think J’s ever watched Kung Fu, so it’s not likely that he’s aware of Kwai Chang Caine’s tiger and dragon marks, seared into his skin by an embrace with a cauldron. The reason I mention this is that we are truly stumped by J’s desire to consume a plate of scalding-hot food in five seconds (while looking tremendously uncomfortable and refusing any offer of assistance,) but will happily spend an hour in eating a cup of cereal. This is a mystery, and not one that we enjoy being faced with, if I must tell the truth.
Try as I might, J will turn down all my offers to delay his consumption of a steaming plate of noodles. My attempts to trick him are also cut at the pass; he seems to have learned to time how long it takes for the noodles to boil and be served, and with his superhuman hearing, he can sense all my movements in the kitchen. Short of hanging from the ceiling like Tom Cruise in the first Mission: Impossible movie, I’m basically fighting a losing battle.
J will take his sweet time eating anything else, but hot food is something he sucks up like a vacuum cleaner. We have witnessed a cup of cereal sitting on his bed, eaten one flake at a time with the same sybaritic savoring Cleopatra must’ve applied to eating grapes while being fanned by her many servants as she floated down the Nile on her barge. You’d think every piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch has been crafted with the utmost care and that J is a gourmand who can actually and truly appreciate it like no other human can. Of course, Cinnamon Toast Crunch is room temperature…steaming-hot noodles are not.
On a good day, when he’s feeling inclined to collaborate, J and I will slowly count to 20 and wait for his food to be cooler. He eggs me on with his hand (speed it up, lady! My throat isn’t hurting or steaming or scarred for life yet! What are you waiting for????) and I slow down some more. I’ve made counting to twenty last a whole minute; I make him enunciate clearly and repeat himself when he is lazy about the signing or the speaking. This, mind you, is a risky move and has resulted in a head first dive down the stairs the next time he’s eating something cooked, a movement so swift that he gets to the plate and the food gets in his mouth faster than I can move. Even in the middle of his discomfort, J will manage to give me a look that says “HA! OW! But HA!!!!!!”
The trick of putting his plate in the freezer doesn’t work. Either he realizes that the sucking sound he heard was the rubber around the freezer door or he moves quietly down the stairs and catches us in flagrante delicto. I’ve seen him cross his arms and tap his foot impatiently at our audacity. We try to use the same gestures on him but he remains unfazed by them, he thinks it’s funny that we are trying to look “serious.”
The timer helps once in a while, but J is impatient when it comes to noodles. J can be impatient with just about everything. So far, the one thing that seems to slow him down is my insistence on having his place set with a mat, napkin, flatware and his hands washed thoroughly…that gives the food less than two minutes to cool completely, especially if J decides to be tremendously obedient and smiles his way through setting the table while I’m still taking off my shoes after coming in from our afternoon walk.
There you have it. I’m getting hoodwinked by a seventeen year-old. I’m getting hoodwinked, furthermore, by a seventeen year-old who doesn’t enjoy what he’s doing to hoodwink me…if I could say “well, at least he’s happy” it would be a different story, but J is obviously uncomfortable when he pushes the hot, hot, hot food into his mouth and forces it down.
Any ideas? Anything you think I can do to negotiate a respite from this self-torture of his?
Mind you: J is a negotiator of the highest caliber. He will take a fancy to things that belong to us and we will have to negotiate with him to get them back. In exchange for a 2-dollar hair clip I had to give J a jar of Nivea cream, a package of clothespins, a roll of Scotch tape, a whole box of new pencils and use of the electric pencil sharpener. An hour later he was slip-sliding around the house…the whole jar of cream gone and his arms and legs as shiny as egg bread. Two days later I discovered a ball of Scotch tape stuck to his closet door, all my socks pinned together with clothespins and twelve one-inch long pencils hidden inside a mound of wood shavings from the pencil sharpener cup. It would have been easier to just buy a new hair clip.
I don’t know if J wants to eat the food that hot because I say “don’t do it.” I don’t know if he does it because he wants to get it over and done with. I do know, however, that his stoicism is totally fake…he is burning his tongue and the roof of his mouth, but he is determined to not acquiesce on this one. Maybe I need a house with a dumb waiter so that I can slowly crank food to wherever J will have his eating area; maybe I need to let him eat upstairs in his room (which I refuse to do because I LOVE that he only eats in the kitchen/dining area as he SHOULD.)
Oh, let’s face it…I just need a sufficient amount of rope, some pulleys, and nerves of steel that will allow me to cook and serve while floating above the ground…
Yeah…that’s not going to happen…