Thursday, December 15, 2011

Case Closed

I have heard vague rumors about the evils of Chinese pine nuts-- something about a bitter after taste. It is enough on my radar screen that in the rare event that I purchase them (when it comes to cooking with nuts, we prefer almonds, pecans, and walnuts, in that order), I check to make sure their origin is not Chinese. An aside: I don't really think it's biased or reactionary to mistrust food from China;the export economy there has grown so quickly that it's unreasonable to expect that adequate health and safety checks are in place.

At any rate, my awareness of the problems with some pine nuts was not acute enough to prevent me from eating a salad full of them at the wedding we attended last Saturday. They tasted fine, and I cleaned my plate.

A couple days later, I had an odd experience. A big box of steaming hot fried chicken, some biscuits, and a plate of homemade lumpia was unceremoniously brought to my classroom around 3 PM with a post-it note. "From the D. family." As hard as I tried to get to the bottom of this unexpected delivery, I could not, and so I stored the food in the refrigerator until the next day.

It turned out that, since I've taught three of their sons over the last few years, they just decided to treat me to something special, and on a whim they sent me some chicken and egg rolls, which just happen to be two of my favorite things. Gratefully, I heated up a portion for my lunch, but I was still thinking about the atypicality of the gesture when I started to eat, and then, for some reason, it seemed like everything had a strange and metallic taste.

I finished my meal with a bit of an uneasy feeling, but after I survived the afternoon, I put aside any suspicions I may have had about the chicken, and promptly forgot the entire thing. At dinner, though, my food tasted off, and briefly I wondered: Is there something wrong with me? Was there something wrong with the chicken? My attention span is only so long, however, and it wasn't too long before all my concerns were lost in whatever was on TV.

When it happened again the next day, though, my focus was completely restored. To be honest,  you get to a certain age and it becomes challenging sometimes to tell if a particular sensation is just a normal ache or pain or rather a symptom of some fatal condition. The trick is to find a balance between ignoring it and googling it and freaking out.

I usually start with the Google route and work from there. This time, I started with the search terms bitter taste mouth, and at first I actually ignored all the hits that mentioned Chinese pine nuts. But they were so prominent that I couldn't skip them completely, and imagine my surprise when I read that this sensation actually starts a few days after eating the nuts and could last up to two weeks! It was only then that I remembered the salad from Saturday night.


But... at least my chicken wasn't poisoned, and, as far as I know, I'm not suffering any deadly disease.

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