The View From Beyond The Edge #1

_I’d parked the car a good 5-minute walk from the address I’d been given over the phone – not wanting it seen anywhere near my destination. Paranoia? Sure, but this WAS the first visit and I wasn’t feeling sure about anything. The walk was brisk and I couldn’t help looking around constantly, wondering who was watching, guessing where I was headed and why. Though the summer night was mild, I shivered nonetheless.

The address was a large, dark Victorian with nary a light burning visible to the street. I’d been instructed to proceed along the walkway between it and it’s neighboring Victorian, knocking on the side door to the basement. Doing so, I felt the dread of a person unduly condemned but resigned to Fate as well. But when the door opened, spilling warm light and the heady aroma of freshly brewed coffee, my trepidation dissolved and remained behind me as I entered the room.

I sat in the only available chair within a large circle of men and the room gradually grew quiet. An older gentleman with a book in his hand asked the “first-timers” to introduce themselves and the reason why they were here so I raised my hand. After I stated my name, the group responded, “Hi, Lenny!” in unison.

Now fully encouraged, I continued, wanting to get the hardest part out of the way quickly: “And I hate cheese!”

A startled gasp drew all attention to the old man whose face pursed into a deep grimace as he spoke: “I’m very sorry! We are all accepted here and… uh,… I was just…”

His voice trailed off and he looked towards the man seated closest to him who appeared to reflect the same deep grimace just before he erupted in uncontrollable laughter. And, with that, the entire room exploded in mirth as men of all ages freely bellowed out their amusement.

In stunned silence, I stood slowly, walked to the door, and slinked back into the night._

  • * * * *

OK, fine! I freely admit it and I feel I have nothing to hide: I hate cheese. I wasn’t always this way. I can remember babysitters calling me “their little mouse” as they cut pieces for me to munch when I wanted a snack. (And I’m going to take the high road here and not even mention old expressions about ‘cutting the cheese’…) But I grew up and developed tastes for different foods and none of them (save pizza) had high cheese factors. Hey, it’s not like I’m the only person on the planet that hates cheese, is it? I mean, doesn’t everybody know that cheese is milk gone bad? I know there are kids too young to have seen the Fox TV special (“When Good Milk Goes Bad”) but the rest of us have no excuse. Funny how it seems the world conspires to cloak the simple truth and not allow some of us to actually “choose to refuse!” Let me explain.

When I order food, I am VERY careful to inquire about its preparation and presentation. I always ask for my order without any cheese anywhere. (I don’t want to see it hanging around my plate while I’m trying to enjoy the REAL food). In veritably, a waiter or waitress will repeat my request with a raised brow and a look ranging from pity to shocked disgust. I ignore that stuff because I don’t want to be rude and I certainly do not want to annoy the people who will be preparing and serving my food! But I always get it back with cheese somewhere. Usually it’s a topping or ‘last moment’ added garnish to an otherwise acceptable meal. If I can hide in under a napkin or something, I’ll let it slide without complaining but remind the waitperson when my bill arrives that I didn’t get the order I asked for. And a polite response will be rewarded with the same tip I would have offered without the oversight. But I still didn’t get to have my food my way.

It’s even worse at fast food establishments. Try ordering a taco without cheese at Jimboy’s Tacos. I didn’t need to open the bag to know it was covered with Parmesan cheese! (Thinking “cutting”. No, nevermind…) I returned the bag and repeated the order, stressing no cheese. The indignant reply: “You said no cheese! That’s Parmesan!” Now I have to ask for tacos with “no cheese AND no Parmesan (cheese)”! Taco Bell and Del Taco are usually pretty good about it and rarely add the nasty stuff. Besides, their idea of cheese is so inconsequential their cheese falls of the taco by the time you hit the curb leaving the drive-thru. Jack In The Box isn’t so easy. They like to add the cheese to the taco right after it comes from the fryer and it gets melted all through the meat and taco shell instantly. If you’re lucky enough to look before you bite it, you can kiss it goodbye anyway. And try to order it with no cheese! Damn! They humiliate you silently using the menu board, which says, “Two tacos – no American”! Besides feeling slightly communist, the odds are good some pre-pubescent dweeb will actually try to pick the cheese out of your completed taco after it’s screwed up.

And what the hell happened to potato chips? Suddenly there are dozens of varieties of chips and 99% have cheese, added cheese, Nacho cheese, Cool Ranch cheese, Fiery Hot Cheese, etc. ALL of the spiciest ones have cheese added to cheese on top of cheese. You’d think you couldn’t even make a chip without cheese. I fell in love with a “super-hot” variety and suddenly had to toss the full bag away (after buying the same product for a year) because the company added cheese and didn’t bother to say it on the front of the bag. >:-( I was so annoyed I called Frito-Lay and asked what was their problem. The very kind and patient woman that answered the phone didn’t even know they’d added cheese to the once perfectly fine chips. She suggested I eat plain old, boring and bland “regular chips”. When I asked her if there were any Frito-Lay brand spicy chips without cheese she looked through the ingredients for all the company’s chips and was surprised to see that cheese was included in almost of them! We both had a good laugh but she’s eating the hot chips and I’m not anymore.

Now for your assignment: write the names of any spicy/super hot potato chips without cheese (I have found only two varieties), any cheese-less (or cheese-hater friendly) restaurants (I haven’t found cheese in sushi yet but I’m sure it will happen sooner or later), and any way to ask for a hamburger and not get a cheeseburger. Forward your findings to me and I will gladly try them all. That Cheese Haters Anonymous chapter I started is just not kicking off well.

The View From Beyond The Edge #1

Lenny La Rue, IPA

Sacramento, United States

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Artist's Description

A rant on the sublimation & machination of a common but GROSS food ingredient

Artwork Comments

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