When Nutella French Toast Goes on a Soviet Trip Into Space

Today, I went out to brunch with my family. We piled in the car and drove to the restaurant. After discovering that we had to wait for thirty minutes, wandering into an Italian deli, and explaining to my mother how earthquake magnitudes are measured, we were seated. I love the smell of pancakes and bacon and all of the happy morning chatter. I had an apple soda in a mason jar, which reminded me of being ten and having picnics in my neighbor’s tree house. If there were pieces of turkey a in cigar box, brought into the tree house by way of a pulley, the memory would be complete.

I sat in the booth, one arm hugging myself and my other hand tracing the groves of the jar like it was Braille, and tried to decide on something. It’s okay. You can eat anything. It’ll all be fine, I kept repeating to myself. A private little mantra. Just do what you practice in therapy, and it’ll all be okay. After trying to estimate the number of calories in several things, shivering at the idea of eggs (I haven’t had an omelet since I was eight, and I certainly don’t plan on starting now.), and contemplating putting my head down on the table and refusing to speak to anyone until I calmed down, I chose something. Nutella stuffed French toast with strawberries. It was something that I knew I would enjoy even though I can rattle off the nutrition facts off the top of my head. (200 calories for two tablespoons of Nutella, and half of it is from fat.)

Then, it came. And when it was right in front of me, looking me in the eye, I thought, Man, this looks really, really good, and not, How many calories does challah have? Because if there are at least three tablespoons of Nutella, and the chalah is about 200 a slice, then… I picked up my fork and knife and dug in. Actually dug in. Like I’m going to eat all of this and complain if someone takes it away from me before I’m done, digging in.

And it was great. The Nutella reminded me of France and how I once ate a heaping spoonful of it while reading all of Life of Pi in one afternoon. The stawberries reminded me of summer and the time I ate an entire carton all by myself underneath the deck when I was nine. (Pippa, if you’re reading this, sorry for blaming you when Mom asked where they all went.) And the challah reminded me of the bakery we used to go to when I was little and lived in Washington.

Pippa talked about how she was going to dye her hair and accidentally said, “Hair is just dead brain cells.” Then, she smacked me when I laughed. I deserved it, but it did hurt. Halfway through the meal, my  dad made everyone tell a joke. When Pippa said, “knock, knock,” I responded, “come in!” After that, I told the joke that had been making my dad laugh all week,”What’s the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts? Beer nuts are about a dollar fifty and deer nuts are under a buck.” Sadly, until a few days ago I thought that the joke was about how deer droppings looked like nuts.

For some reason, after telling a lame joke off a Dixie cup from her childhood, my mom decided to talk about Vladimir Komarov, the first Soviet to travel into space more than once and the first human to die during a space mission (when the Soyuz module crashed after re-entry on April 24 1967). Obviously, this freaked the beegeebus out of me. I do not like heights, and I do not like airplanes. The last time I flew in an airplane I had to be heavily medicated, and I still panicked and ended up accidentally slapping my father. Thus, I do not like thinking too much about space travel. So for the next hour and a half, my food triumph was ignored, and all I could think about was dying in airplane crash. Thanks, Mom.

Happily, I’ve mostly gotten that whole incident out of my head and am now celebrating my food triumph. Because that’s the right thing to do. I’m not planning on becoming an astronaut, so I don’t have to worry about that, right? Yeah, Nutella stuffed French toast with strawberries is so much more important.

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