This memory managed to wriggle to the top of the heap this week; although I can’t say I know why. It was, at the time, a rather annoying experience. Now, it’s just peculiar that I remember it.
A million and twelve years ago I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a lovely city, full of charm and older homes, with a great liberal community. I had moved there with my then (I thought) boyfriend. Needless to say, that was coming apart at the seams, and I wasn’t at all certain what to do about it.
Somehow in this mix, we were invited to have Thanksgiving with an acquaintance of mine, Jean, her boyfriend and other people. Jean was a physicist by training, but we’d met at the bakery I had worked at. Apparently that bakery was home to wayward wanna-be intellectuals who didn’t know what they wanted to be upon growing up.
We arrived at Jean’s at the appointed time, engaged in small talk, and started drinking wine. Igor, aware that I had issues with sulfates, was on me about drinking red wine, but I figured I’d only have a little. It was a holiday. It was snowing and we had good company, what could happen. However, while eating hors d’oeuvres I noticed an odd flavor. I asked Jean about it and was told, “You probably aren’t used to whole wheat crust.” I reminded her that I BAKED at the bakery and obviously ate the food. Whole wheat was not the issue. But I let it drop. Later, eating some calamari, I once again noticed a strange flavor. This time Jean tried to deflect it with “You probably have never eaten tentacles.” “No,” I murmured, “that’s not it.”
At some point during dinner, I noticed all eyes on me. Igor asked if I was OK. I wasn’t. I was pale, my lips and tongue were numb, and I had a sudden, amazingly bad headache. I could barely sit there and hold my head up. My migraine was not only rapid onset, but it was horrific. It was the kind of migraine that makes you wish for death; it was so painful. At this point Igor asked what was in the food. Jean kept saying nothing, until she asked if I was allergic to MSG. I don’t even know if I said anything, but Igor must have knowing that I had gotten horrific migraines after eating at the local Korean place in Champaign-Urbana. Jean then confessed that she LOVED the taste of Fruit Fresh and had put it in EVERYTHING. According to her, it was straight-up MSG.
Because I couldn’t function, I was lead into another room to lay down until it all passed. Unfortunately, sick women who can’t talk, let alone walk, can’t inform anyone that the pot they’re smoking is going to make her vomit. Until of course, it does.
Needless to say, worst night of my life.
I don’t know why we didn’t just leave. I’m assuming Igor couldn’t drive a stick shift. Then again, he may have had too much to drink/smoke for us to leave. I just know that I spent the next day in a dark, silent room sleeping off the worst Thanksgiving meal of my life.