Did you know my middle name is Gertrude, after my great-grandma Gertrude? That’s what the G
stands for. My mom told me Great-Grandma Gertrude really liked to cook and eat, which makes sense, because I do, too. I even found out I’m a foodie, which is someone who loves to eat interesting foods. I don’t know if they called people foodies in the very old-fashioned days, though.
Great-Grandma Gertrude grew up in Russia and made things like matzo ball soup (chicken soup with yummy balls made out of matzo stuff), kasha (it’s sort of like rice but browner), and knishes (mashed potatoes wrapped up all comfy in dough). She even made her own pickles and kept them in a barrel in her backyard.
Mom always says Great-Grandma Gertrude could cook like nobody’s business. But if Great-Grandma Gertrude cooked like nobody’s business, how did anyone taste her food? Sometimes things adults say make no sense to me. Actually, there’s a lot that doesn’t make sense to me. I like making lists, so I thought I’d make a list of nonsensey things:
1 Three weeks ago, Sage (one of my best friends) decided he didn’t like the hot lunch in the cafeteria because it was too boring (it is). But now he brings the same exact lunch from home every day. Isn’t that even more boring?
2 Camille (my other best friend, who is from France) always wears fancy dresses. I think it might be because she’s French. But then she can’t hang on the monkey bars with me and Sage and that makes her sad. I don’t get why she won’t just wear pants.
3 Mrs. B, my teacher and the best teacher ever, got new glasses that hang on a pretty chain around her neck. She used to wear her glasses a lot, but since she got the new ones I’ve NEVER seen her put them on her face. It’s a big mystery.
I wonder if I’ll ever understand these things. But back to Sage. This is what he brings to lunch every day:
1 A turkey sandwich: two pieces of turkey, two pieces of bread, and that’s it.
2 A cheese stick (the really bendy kind).
3 A bag of popcorn. (Sometimes when no one’s looking, he throws pieces of popcorn at somebody and then pretends he didn’t. But I always see him.)
4 An apple (that he doesn’t eat at all).
5 A box of juice (that he spills on his shirt every time he opens it).
I think it’s a perfectly good lunch for one day, but not for the rest of your life. There’s just too much good food out there in the world.
Yesterday at lunch while I was eating a salad I made myself (with black beans, corn, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese), and Camille was eating roast chicken with asparagus and a tiny loaf of bread with delicious cheese from a goat, I asked Sage if he was ever going to bring something different to lunch.
He looked at me and blinked. “Why?” he said.
“Don’t you get tired of eating the same thing every day?” I asked.
“Why would I? It’s my favorite lunch,” he said.
It was much worse than I thought. I know this sounds a little weird, but I just couldn’t help feeling sad about all the foods he might never eat. Sage didn’t like to share lunches with me or Camille, and lunchtime just wasn’t as much fun when Sage ate the same thing every day. After school I thought about it and thought about it, but I could only come up with the first part of a plan to help Sage.
It started by wearing a dress to school—my lucky purple one with white and green polka dots on it. I usually only wear dresses on picture day because Mom makes me.
At breakfast, everyone noticed.
“What’s the occasion?” Dad said, drinking his coffee.
“Yeah,” my big sister, Molly, said. “Is it picture day?”
“That’s what I was wondering,” Mom said. “Did I fill out the form? I don’t remember seeing one.”
“Hold all of your horses,” I said, holding my fork up into the air. That’s what Dad always says when Molly or I get upset about something.
Mom, Dad, and Molly looked at me.
“Don’t worry, it’s part of my plan,” I said, and started eating my eggs again.
“Oh, and what plan is that?” Mom asked, the corners of her mouth smiling in a nervous way.
“Well, I’m afraid Sage is going to eat the same boring lunch for the rest of his life and it’s not going to be very fun for him or me. So if I wear a dress, then he won’t think it’s strange that I don’t want to hang on the monkey bars with him at recess. That way I can talk to Camille in private about what to do, because she always wears dresses,” I explained.
“Well, that makes total sense,” Molly said, shaking her head, and went off to get her backpack.
“Phoebe,” Dad said, putting on his jacket. “Why can’t Sage eat whatever lunch he likes?”
“He can, but once a week, tops,” I said and crossed my arms.
“Pheebs, just because you like all sorts of things doesn’t mean other people have to as well,” Dad said in an extra-nice way. He always does that when he wants to make sure I’ll listen.
“Yes honey, you need to let Sage eat what he wants,” Mom said, nodding at Dad.
“Okay,” I said and smiled weakly.
But deep inside my stomach where my scrambled eggs were, I didn’t think it was okay. Camille would know what to do. She even liked to eat snails. I saw her do it with my own eyes when we went to France together.
Copyright © 2015 by Veera Hiranandani. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.