Jalapeno chips
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David gets a kick out of drawing similarities between me and my sister Jane. We both do the "happy dance" when we receive tasty food, we're both exceptionally neurotic, and we both make a game out of pushing his buttons. But today, he discovered something new, something he describes as "not normal," but something Jane and I argue is VERY normal. I'm bringing the matter to you, my readers, to help settle the argument. It's all about ratios, now hear me out.

After our morning jog-walk, which is more like a panting walk and stumble forward, we came back to my place, took turns showering and complaining about the lack of hot water (apparently one of the boilers busted this morning), and prepared our ritual turkey sandwiches in the kitchen: thinly sliced Boars Head pastrami flavored turkey, lettuce, veggie pepperjack cheese, honey mustard, and avocado on wheat. The accessory to our sandwich, the thing that adds crunch, spice, and excitement to our lunch, is Tim's jalapeno flavored potato chips.

As always, Jane and I each dropped a specifically-sized handful of those chips on our respective plates. When David reached over and took a chip from Jane's plate, she immediately grabbed for the bag to replace her lost chip. "You almost messed up my ratio," Jane said.

David learned long ago not to mess with my ratio. Take all the chips you want from my plate, just do it at the beginning of the meal, when I can still compensate and adjust so that my last bite has the right balance.

"Both of you? Okay, now that's not normal," David said.

"Yes it is," Jane and I argued in sync. I continued, "Don't you want the right amount of sauce for your pasta? The right balance of salt and sugar in a cake? With sandwiches, it's crunch to soft. Caring about ratios is NORMAL. End of story." David still disagrees. So I'm reaching out to my peeps online. What do you guys think?

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Barbarella Fokos May 24, 2011 @ 2:50 p.m.

I need to figure out how to post this under the Feast blog -- it's definitely an OCD foodie type quandary. ;)


nan shartel May 24, 2011 @ 5:34 p.m.

it is Babz...and i agree with u and Jane...and my HB knows if he does that it's fork in the hand time 4 him


j/k ;-S


Javajoe25 May 24, 2011 @ 11:02 p.m.

Oh, I don't know about this one, Barb...I'm leaning toward Dave, here. I mean, I can sort of understand the soft to crunch ration thing, although I think it's the cheese to meat situation inside the sandwich that really is the critical ratio. You can always grab more chips!

But let me ask you this; Which scenario would you rather face: to finish the last chip on your plate and still have another bite of sandwich to go? Or, to gulp that last bite of sandwich and still have another chip on your plate? Now, if you feel your answer to these questions are important, than I have to go with David and render a "not normal" verdict. That is, unless of course...there is also a pickle on the plate. That changes everything!


david May 25, 2011 @ 8:51 a.m.

The root of this story was that I find it continually fascinating to see how many involuntary behaviors (tics, idiosyncrasies, OCD habits, etc.) are shared by Barbarella and her sister Jane.

The thing with the ratios is of constant amazement to me. I have long known that Barb had this particular "minor preference" as she calls it. The way it works is that she must (MUST!) have the perfect number of chips per bites of her sandwich -- each savory bite accompanied by the crunch of a chip. When the ratio is off, anxiety quickly takes hold.

If Barb has made her sandwich and laid out her chips and I snatch one early in the process of her meal, she may not be happy about it but she can still make the necessary mental adjustments and compensate. However, it I steal a chip from her plate late in the game, all hope is lost, and she kinda freaks out.

Which brings me around to my original point... I thought this behavior (along with the food-will-soon-be-happening "happy dance" their bodies both, involuntarily launch into at the prospect of an imminent meal) was unique to Barb, but Jane suffers from this affliction too! Barb's story above is in response to my lunchtime experience with Jane a couple of days ago.

Jane, who often stops by to do some of her work at or place, had made herself a sandwich with chips. Just after she finished preparing her plate, I happened by and plucked one of the chips off her plate.

And that's when I saw it. The oh-so-familiar flash of panic in the eyes that I had come to recognize in Barb. I saw Jane's eyes dart from me to her plate then over to the bag of chips on the counter. I immediately knew what had happened. Grabbing one of Jane's chips had thrown off her ratio, and her reaction was instantaneous and visceral. Sheer panic, until she was able to ascertain that another chip was available to fill the void left by the one I had nabbed from her plate!

Years back, Barbarella wrote a column titled, "Minor Prefererences". It is no longer archived on the Reader's site so, for your reading pleasure, I am taking the liberty of posting it below in segments.



david May 25, 2011 @ 8:53 a.m.


“But society has now fairly got the better of individuality; and the danger which threatens human nature is not the excess, but the deficiency, of personal impulses and preferences.” – John Stuart Mill

“Careful, the plate is hot,” she warned, before placing my dinner on the table, obviously unaware of the real danger of putting anything of extreme temperature (hot or cold) within my grasp. Reaching for the fork, my left thumb knuckle inadvertently brushed against the searing ceramic. As the sting of the burn ebbed, I intentionally brushed my right thumb against the plate. Still feeling uneven, working on compulsion, I deliberately touched each thumb to the plate again, applying equal amounts of pressure. I took a deep breath, steeling myself for the familiar urge that would direct every other finger to take its turn with the hot plate, but it never came. I sighed with relief, picked up my fork, and did my best to ignore David’s knowing smile.

Early in our relationship, when I explained my symmetrical requirements, David was quick to turn my “issues” into a form of amusement. He still does. Just the other night, I was lying comfortably in bed, on the edge of sleep, when I felt it – a short puff of air that finished with a subtle pressure on the back of my left hand. I tried not to move. I knew that if I opened my eyes, I would see him watching me, waiting for me to “perform.” I don’t have to do it, I told myself. As if he read my mind, David said, “Yes you do.” I don’t have to… but I want to. Convinced of my self-control, I turned away from him (hoping he would think I was simply changing positions to enhance my comfort) and casually exhaled, fast and hard, as quietly as possible, on the back of my right hand. Missing nothing, David giggled, earning himself a healthy slap; this only made him laugh harder.

I’ve never been, nor will I ever be, “diagnosed” with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I’m not debilitated by my urges and impulses, as was Jack Nicholson’s character in "As Good As it Gets". I find it odd that more people haven’t discovered the peace of mind that comes with maintaining a sense of order, however arbitrary and insignificant it may seem. I’ve heard it said that “victims” of OCD are subconsciously seeking to bring an element of control to their lives, which may otherwise be lacking. But despite being an avowed control freak, I don’t believe that the specific things I do are manifestations of a perceived lack of control. I don’t think of OCD (or at least my diluted version of it) as a “problem.” As one might choose yellow over orange, I choose to do these “crazy” things.


david May 25, 2011 @ 8:55 a.m.


One time, David and I were out for a stroll in our Kensington neighborhood. As we walked, chatting about our day, he paused in the conversation to ask, “What are you doing?”

“What are you talking about?” was my deft reply.

“I’m not sure, it’s something in your step… did you just go out of your way to avoid walking on that line?” Playing dumb seemed ineffective, so I chose to fess up. I explained to my baffled lover that I wasn’t exactly “avoiding” the lines, as much as I was ensuring that my feet passed over them sequentially. He looked befuddled, so I spelled it out for him: “I am adjusting my step so that my feet fall over these lines alternately. Right, left, right, left, without the same foot passing over the lines twice in a row. Okay?”

David smiled at me. A moment later, three syllables escaped from behind his Cheshire cat grin – “O. C. D.” Determined to make him understand that my choices are not the result of a “disorder,” I returned his grin with a smirk and spoke for the first time the words that would become my mantra of rationalization – “Minor Preferences, beh beh. I don’t need my feet to step alternately over these cracks. I prefer to walk this way. So you see, I don’t have OCD, I have minor preferences, like everyone else. Like the way you prefer one radio station over another, it’s as simple as that.” This may have made him laugh, but he had no argument, and I considered the battle won. But the war waged on.

Months later, I would again unsheathe my mantra in self-defense. Ascending the stairs at home, I muttered complaints to myself regarding the number of steps – 15, an odd number. David said he had never noticed how many stairs there were. Then, narrowing his eyes, he asked me why it mattered. I confessed that it bothers me when I can’t climb a set of stairs beginning with my right foot and ending with my left. It’s not as important for me to start with my right as it is for me to end with my left, so when encountering a staircase, I can tell at a glance whether or not it’s “safe” to begin with my right foot. He actually pointed at me as he cried, “OCD!” I remained calm. “No, darling, what I meant was, I prefer to end with my left foot. It’s not the end of the world if I can’t – certainly I’d be able to get on with my day.”

It’s true, I can suppress the urges when situations require conformity, but not without distress. When David wants to toy with me outside of the bedroom, he’ll give me a sloppy kiss on one of my cheeks and refuse to kiss the other. This game has become familiar: I struggle to get his head into a position that allows me to press my un-kissed cheek against his whisker-framed lips -- he strains to deny me the sensation I crave, laughing, always laughing, until either I succeed, or he gives in. I admit I have fun with these games, partly because I know that my so-called strange urge will be sated. But not every situation is as preferable as I would like.


david May 25, 2011 @ 8:56 a.m.


A creature of habit, it makes me happy to take a lunch break and go to my local Subway on El Cajon Blvd. Carlos, El Jefe del Emparedado, knows exactly what I like, because my order NEVER changes (with the exception of the recent, and very bold, additions of pickles and olives to my turkey creation). The same bag of chips – Miss Vickie’s Jalapeno flavor – is the perfect match. So perfect, that if the restaurant is out of them, I skip the sandwich altogether. My system of selecting and rationing chips is so complex, even I don’t completely understand it. It was during a typical visit to Subway that David discovered yet another one of my minor preferences.

He always knew there was something odd in the way I consumed my lunch – a subtle, mystical pattern operating below the surface of our mid-day repast. This day he was eyeing my hands closely, trying to break the code. Aware of his attention, I feared for my chips. I don’t mind if he takes one when I’ve just opened the bag, because I can adjust the soft/crunch, spicy/mild ratios to compensate for the loss. However, once past the Sandwich Failsafe Point (when I can count the remaining chips at a glance), losing one spells dining disaster. David’s hand moved toward my pile of Miss Vickie’s best, scooping up a chip. Instinctively, my hand shot out and clutched his wrist as I commanded him to release his tasty prey. When I realized what I had done, I felt guilty, humiliated, exposed as a greedy miser of crispy goodness – how could I not share my last bite with the man I love? I beseeched him with puppy dog eyes to understand my plight as my mouth told him to “back off, Buster, I’ve got plans for those.”

His look of shock and hurt quickly gave way to a visage of queer understanding. He released the chip, even as I begged him to take it, the recognition of my inappropriate behavior overriding any sense of taste preference I had just moments before. “No, babe, it’s okay, I don’t need it. I know it’s just one of your OCD things, and I don’t want to disturb whatever formula you have going on there.” Intent on explaining my selfishness, I told him about my ratios; how particular combinations maximize the pleasure I derive from my simple lunch. Then I said, “NOT OCD. Minor preferences.”

He smiled that knowing smile, and nodded his head. “Sure, babe. Whatever you say.”


Barbarella Fokos May 25, 2011 @ 9:29 a.m.

Okay, who let David in here? ;) Thanks for "re-outting" my bits of crazy, beh beh. I'm going to get you for that later.


Evelyn May 25, 2011 @ 10:46 a.m.

maybe it's OCPD (obsessive compulsive personality disorder)?.. where the obsessive compulsions are more generalized as opposed to specific w OCD.


Barbarella Fokos May 25, 2011 @ 10:58 a.m.

I'd never heard about that, Blue. It sounds more up my neurotic alley, as I can switch out one compulsion for another. For example, I'm not a crazy hand-washer (they're always clean, but not raw), but I do have certain... things I feel I have to do, or things I can't stop doing even though I don't want to do them. For example, clicking my teeth together until one of them cracked right in half. Huh. Maybe I AM crazy. ;)


nan shartel May 25, 2011 @ 6:03 p.m.

thx for ur insights David...~~fork behind my back~~


Javajoe25 May 25, 2011 @ 7:38 p.m.

Holy Moley. I had no idea. This is beyond anything I had anticipated.

David! In the immortal words of the most gorgeous actress in the world, Geena Davis, "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Coordinated sidewalk crack stepping? Left foot/right foot sequential stair-stepping? "It's only like choosing yellow instead of red?" "One-potato, two tomato, three potato, Chip!"? No, no, no, no. And the sister too? Oy yoy! This runs deep, Dave. this is genetic. This could take a very strange turn...like "I have a left hand, David has a left hand; I have a right hand, David has a right hand, I have no testicles and David...David, David, David. Oh yea--right now it's chips with the sandwich and cracks in the sidewalk, but you mark my words, Dave; It's going to come down to inney-meeney-miney-moe and whack! Your voice is a an octave higher!

Get her to the therapist, Dave, and pronto. These required rituals can get out of hand very quickly and before you know it, she'll have you walking in the door backwards, rub your belly in a counterclockwise direction, and then knock on your head three times before you can sit down to dinner.

Just do what that chick in the movie with Jack Nicholson did: she let him know if he wanted warm rolls in the morning (and I think the real meaning of that is fairly obvious), then you are going to have to act like a normal person.

And whatever you do, do not ever let her find out how you feel about the "right way" to eat a hot dog. Best of luck, Amigo. You're going to need it.


Duhbya May 26, 2011 @ 10:11 a.m.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, a bedraggled soldier forces another scrumptious bite of her MRE down her dust-caked throat and dreams of home.


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