At first, my mother was the only one who’d refuse to eat Grandma’s food, and I thought she was being paranoid. Then I started noticing that every time I went to Grandma’s, I’d pass out on the couch or on the train on the way back to the city. When I stopped eating Grandma’s food, my brother thought I was paranoid. But I stopped passing out, and pretty soon he stopped eating Grandma’s food too.
But here’s the thing: You don’t want to believe your grandmother is poisoning you. You know that she loves you—there’s no doubt of that—and she’s so marvelously grandmotherly and charming. And you know that she would never want to poison you. So despite your better judgment, you eat the food until you’ve passed out so many times that you can’t keep doubting yourself. Eventually, we would arrive for holidays at Grandma’s with groceries and takeout, and she’d seem relieved that we wouldn’t let her touch our plates. By then, her eyesight was starting to go, so she wouldn’t notice the layer of crystalline powder atop that fancy lox she was giving you.
So the question became: How did we explain to guests, outsiders, that they shouldn’t eat grandma’s food? One time, maybe on Passover, my brother brought his new girlfriend, an actress. Grandma had promised not to prepare anything, and it seemed she’d kept her word, so we didn’t mention the poisoning thing to the girlfriend, but after we’d eaten lunch, Grandma came out of the kitchen with these oatmeal raisin cookies that looked terrible. They were bulbous, like the baking soda had gone haywire. My brother’s girlfriend ate two of them, maybe out of politeness. We looked on, aghast. She had a rehearsal in the city, but she passed out on the couch and missed it.
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