Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I think I'm pregnant.

I know this is far-fetched, me not having a womb, ovaries, that kind of thing. But I'm having alliterative cravings.

I'm just coming off about ten years' obsession with sushi. That started when someone tricked me into trying eel at a party for international students. After I'd tasted it and loved it, they told me it was eel, and my worldview changed. I spent far more money than was wise on sushi when I lived in Phoenix, then moved out to Nacogdoches and could only dream of it for a few years. Some brave soul finally started a sushi restaurant in town, and it was decidedly mediocre, but its availability made it good enough to simulate wonderful.

Eugene has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sushi places. There are five that are open, a sixth that is remodeling, and a seventh that is coming to town. Of the five, three are very good, and two of those three are a sensual explosion. The only problem is, I've had too much of a good thing. I arrived here in August, and through the beginning of January I had sushi every single week: usually on Friday, to celebrate surviving the week, but sometimes on the weekend. The last three or four weeks, I've actually not been able to work up enthusiasm for sushi, something I never thought would happen.

My new fascination is what has me a bit worried.

Eugene has wonderful soup. I mean, wonderful. Anyone who's known me for a while and taken meals with me will be startled to hear that I actually eat the soup here slowly. That's huge. I've never in my life eaten anything slowly. But if I eat the soup too quickly, it's gone so soon that I almost feel despair welling up inside me. So I savor the soup.

Pizza Research Institute is as cool as all the reviewers say, but one of its best-kept strengths is its soup. I would be their heartiest cheerleader if they changed their name to Soup Research Institute and offered the pizza as an appetizer. Last fall I had coconut curried squash soup, and it was one of the most amazing things I've ever tasted in my life. When I went back two weeks ago, I had basil pesto tomato soup, and I ordered a second cup of it for dessert.

More recently, I've discovered the soups at Barry's, which is a bakery about half a football field from my office. They have five selections every day, including vegan and gluten-free choices. Some of the highlights so far include creamy Thai pumpkin, Hungarian mushroom, and coconut curried lentil soup. Today I had just plain tomato soup, but it had chunks of tomato in it and a mix of spices that would tempt me to give up government secrets. Soup is now my daily lunch, or at least the first half of it. It's a great deal, too; three dollars and fifty cents gets me a cup of soup and a big slice of fresh-baked bread.

It probably has something to do with the cold, wet weather in these parts, and I can see how decade after decade of life in these conditions would create pressure to find comfort in soup, to make soup that could provide that comfort. Whatever the cause, it's astonishing.

All of that sets up my problem. Say the following out loud: Soup. Sushi.

See my problem? There's a clear pattern here. I'm becoming obsessed with foods that begin with "Sue."

Most of the sushi restaurants also offer sukiyaki, so I'm sure that's next. And somewhere along the line I'll probably start dumping entire bottles of Sue Bee honey on top, which will prove I'm pregnant.

One of the ladies I go to church with is named Sue. She plays flute in the worship band. She's in my Sunday School class. And, yes, she loves to pitch in and cook every time there's a function involving food, which, we being Baptists and all, means every function that includes the use of molecules. And it's only a matter of time until I lock on to Sue's food as my new obsession and begin stalking her.

Eventually I'll be tossed in jail, lose my job, bottom out, live in the street. Then, yes, I'll develop an unaccountable craving for raw sewage.

It's almost too much to bear. I might actually have to end it all by biting into a suitcase nuke.

Yes, all of the above is sue-real. I'm an academic. That's what I do. Sue me.

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