April 1, 1999
Danger Foods

I was a little worried about ordering the Chicken Marsala at Linguine's the other night. 

With good reason, as it turns out.

I'm not actively avoiding foods with alcohol (or alcohol flavors) in them, these days. A splash of wine vinegar on my salad? Fine. A pina colada yogurt during my 10 a.m. break? I can handle it.

(An entire box of nothing but See's Rum Nougat Chocolates from my pal Heather? Hand 'em over.)

I know that encountering a little evaporated bourguignon in my boeuf isn't going to send me running to the nearest Black & White for a bottle of Livingston Cellars. I am committed to my recovery.

On the other hand, I don't actively seek out these foods. I'm not likely to order the Cherries Drowning In Rum and Served on a Bed of Flaming Kahlua Briquettes, for instance.

And beer nuts are out, just on principle.

Common sense seems to be working when it comes to making these decisions. So far.

But I wasn't in a spaghetti and meatballs mood on Monday night, and none of the other *specials* (as breathlessly recited to us by Hello-My-Name-Is-Todd-I'll-Be-Your-Meal-Facillitator-This-Evening) floated my boat, either. The only thing on the menu that sounded good, frankly, was the Chicken Marsala. So after David got us settled in with bread and iced tea, I handed him a menu and said -- with a meaningful expression -- "What you think about the chicken?"

He knew exactly where I was going with that. Was this going to be a Danger Food? And he quickly proofread the ingredients for me. Chicken. Fettuccine. Mushrooms. Tarragon. Marsala wine. 

"I don't see any problem," he said, and he looked at me carefully. "Do you see any problem?"

I said nope, no problem at all. Hello-My-Name-Is-Todd-I'll-Be- Your-Meal-Facillitator-This-Evening took our orders, and a few minutes later he plopped an enormous plate of steaming brown noodles and chicken and assorted other stuff onto the table in front of me.

Chicken Marsala, a la Linguine's.

I speared a portabello mushroom onto my fork and sniffed it cautiously. It smelled safely fungal. I took a nibble. Salty. Smoky. A little nutty. Was I tasting the wine, or the mushroom, or something else? (I wouldn't recognize the flavor of Marsala wine if it jumped off my plate and bit me in the tastebuds ... probably because it doesn't come in a BOX.) I took a bite of chicken and chewed thoughtfully. A moment later I could definitely taste the wine. I felt the heat of it on my tongue, and in my throat as I swallowed. When I passed a forkful of chicken across the table to David and he tasted it, he lifted his eyebrows in surprise. Neither of us had expected it to be quite so ... "winey."

But you know what? It was OK. It really was.

It tasted fine, for one thing. It was no KFC Honey BBQ-Style Chicken ... but it didn't completely suck. I doused it liberally in salt and pepper and Parmesan (I would have asked for ketchup, but Hello-My-Name-Is-Todd I'll-Be-Your-Meal-Facillitator This-Evening mighta slapped me), and I washed it down with plenty of Diet Pepsi, and it was totally OK, once the initial surprise of the Marsala wore off.

The only real problem was that there was so damn much of it. We are talking a MOUNTAIN of food here. After bread and bruschetta and salad and Diet Pepsi as "appetizers," I barely managed three or four mouthsful of chicken before slumping back in my chair, painfully stuffed. Hello-My-Name-Is-Todd -I'll-Be-Your-Meal- Facillitator-This-Evening dutifully shoveled the leftovers into a Styrofoam container for us, and I've been lunching on it every day since.

That was on Monday. Today is Thursday. You do the math. I am now so sick of Chicken Marsala I could hurl.

But once again I managed to prove to myself that it's possible to function as a recovering alcoholic in a non-alcoholic world, as long as I'm careful and observant ... AND that every decision I make in the management of my disease doesn't have to be a BFD. If I'm at a party and someone offers me a martini I can say "No thanks." If they offer me a See's Rum Nougat Chocolate, I can say "Mind if I hold the box?" 

The decision is mine.

But next time we're at Linguine's, I'm going to order the spaghetti and meatballs.

On second thought: make that a half-order.

(Better yet: let me see the kiddies menu.)



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