The Things We Eat for Love
Moss Piglet, July 2022, The Food Issue
My life can be charted in loved ones and food. When I was six weeks old, my parents
hired a Swedish woman to take care of me. Ruth showed me two things (three if you count The
Lawrence Welk Show, watched curled up next to her in a stuffed chair on Sunday nights) –
unconditional love and Swedish food.
Ruth fed me pickled herring, gravlax, and Knäckebröd, a remarkably dry crispbread. She
taught me to make Swedish meatballs when I was barely tall enough to reach the top of the
stove. We made wreath-shaped cookies at Christmastime with almonds ground by hand in the
heavy metal food mill she attached to the counter. Best of all, she stirred my ice cream until it
reached a perfect softened consistency. I ate pickled herring straight out of the jar for years as if
it was normal. Apparently it wasn’t.
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be just like my dad, so I ate what he ate. Kosher
hotdogs piled high with sauerkraut, mustard and hot peppers. Broiled kippers for breakfast. The
raunchy fish smell fouled the entire kitchen. No one ever joined us.
My mother’s specialty was homemade fudge at midnight. We’d eat it warm, straight out
of the pot, too inpatient to wait for it to harden. When I was older, at midnight in a hotel in New
York, she called room service for two glasses of milk and two shots of scotch. So much for
In my twenties, my sisters and I would stay up talking, drinking cokes in thick glass
bottles, eating potato sticks out of the can. Eventually we’d realize it was late, and agree to go to
bed as soon as we finished our cokes, after which we’d talk for another twenty minutes.
Inevitably one of us would pop open another can of potato sticks which we’d then have to finish.
This would play out several times before we finally went to bed. We never learned.
Then I met Barry. The first time I slept at his house, in the morning he made pancakes
from scratch, with warmed, amber Vermont maple syrup. Needless to say, I fell in love.
Years later I met Avery. By then I was vegan. Avery introduced this New Yorker to all
things North Carolinian. She took me on a road trip, a quest for the perfect buttermilk biscuit.
She got boiled peanuts from gas station convenience stores. They made my fingers puffy, lips
swollen from salt, but damn, they were good. She fed me pork rinds and what she called North
Carolina barbeque. She made me her famous pimento cheese ball, grits with salt and pepper, and
sausage with milk gravy. I tried it all, before settling back into my vegan ways. It turns out
unconditional love isn’t just for babies.
I lost the letters you sent me. I have our emails. Sometimes at midnight I open one. I
know it’s a bad idea to do it right before trying to fall asleep, but it’s quiet then and nobody
I lost my button-up shirt with the tigers on it. It’s the one I wore for my passport photo. It
was awesome. Truth is, I didn’t lose it. I gave it to Goodwill. Along with the bright yellow
sweatpants that everyone made fun of. I miss them. That and the striped goblet I sold on Etsy. I
needed the money. I want it back.
I found the letters I sent you when I went through your things. You’d saved them in a
brown manilla envelope. Of course you did. But I don’t want to read what I wrote you. I want to
read what you wrote me.
Here’s what I want to do. Curl up on the couch in my tiger shirt and yellow sweatpants, drink
wine from my striped goblet and read your letters. Better yet, we do it together.
Moss piglets, aka water bears, aka tardigrades, often are called the most resilient creatures on the planet. I can’t speak to Moss Piglet the magazine’s resiliency, but I can definitely say that it is one of the most delightful publications on the planet.