A Piet Mondrian done in food
Author: Thom Hofman
From: San Diego
Blogging since: March 2013
Post Title: OCD
Post Date: April 29, 2013
By my approximation, the knife sits in proper proportion to the cutting board: 90-degree angled, blade turned inward and at least two inches separate from the mise-en-place. The thumb-bowls are three in number. Julienned radishes, slivered scallions, and minced garlic in symmetric row. I rest an avocado near the cutting board and, by no accident, it completes some idea of balance.
I could take a picture of this.
Findlay sits in his high chair and grunts. Nine months in and that’s his contribution to the world: seat-bouncing bearish grumbles. I’m attempting to re-situate the mise-en-place, placing a pepper-grinder left of center and exclaiming: “Be right with you, Finn.” He’s starting to fuss. “Be right with you, Finn.” My voice is reaching a slightly higher register.
I move the peppermill two centimeters to the left. I’m suddenly okay. You could project the Golden Mean over my kitchen setup and there’d be perfect alignment. Seriously: the radishes are amazingly julienned, uniformly 1/8-inch in cut, and the garlic is a perfect brunoise. With the leeks perpendicular as they are, this mise-en-place may well as be a Piet Mondrian done in food.
Finn cries. He’s my square peg in a round hole.
I turn my attention toward Finn and the crying stops. And neatly. It’s uncanny: one minute it’s an exhaustive cry, then — on the inhalation — it’s a laugh. His eyes widen blue when meeting mine. This is his gambit. Daddy — your move. He actually pushes forward in his highchair.
“Kid — I don’t understand you.” I smirk.
I’m met with a smile, stereotypical. Children with Down syndrome share faces and that smile is a reminder that Finn belongs to something else besides his heredity.
He’s actually been watching me for a spell and suddenly I feel exposed. “Obsessive Compulsive Symmetry Disorder.” I’m self-diagnosed. Yes: I’m in the practice of “evening” things, dismissing whatever is odd and creating scalene balance out of Mason jars and prep bowls and cutting boards.
“Daddy: what’re you doing?” Those blue eyes.
Would I could explain this. It’s a foolhardy gesture to lift a chin against the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law dictates how energy will always decompose into degraded form: order into chaos. There is nothing so frustrating as seeing a task undone — experiencing the undoing of a doing — as entropy takes over and reduces your labors to a sum-nothing. The Second Law of Thermodynamics sucks.
“I know, Finn,” I take care to turn the cumin-seed bottle label-frontward. “I know, Findlay.” Finn smiles. Findlay is the easiest kid on the planet. He allows me my behavior, my Sisyphean charge against entropy.
We all have something. As best I can figure, this OCD thing is an attempt at being teleological. When all’s aligned, there is closure and an extra-sensorial idea of fulfillment. Which is really right fucking stupid — all superstitions are — but, hey, means to an end. I just confessed to finding comfort in a carefully orchestrated mise-en-place. And why that comforts me, I don’t know.
Finn’s blue eyes are constellated with white dots. They’re decorated with Brushfield Spots, anomalies reserved for children with Down syndrome. This means Finn’s eyes have aggregate cells, extra cells which pearl something fantastic along the iris perimeter. The Brushfield Spots are gorgeous. It’s a cruelty that they’re deemed a genetic mistake. He watches me with an intent that is old-soul worthy and those precipitate spots are incredible. There is a certain order in Finn’s eyes. I see it, at least. When we look at each other, it’s important.
The first thing I noticed was that Finn’s eyes were blue. On a Mendelian Punnett Square, this was an improbability, but certainly a possibility. He came with an extra chromosome, too. Improbable, but certainly not impossible. We just had no idea.
I am uncomfortable when things aren’t aligned. Trisomy-21. That’s a three and a twenty-one. Mind you, this obliterates my sense of symmetry but I have to make sense of it.