The Summer of Jaws
The summer after my sophomore year of college, I got braces—and my jaw broken. On purpose. My doctor called it preventive surgery, which made it sound prudent. My jaw had been growing out of alignment for years, and his description of a pain- and headache-free existence was enough to convince me to go for it. What he didn't dwell on was that my jaw would remain wired shut for seven weeks.
After surgery, it didn't take me long to put together a list of the things for which an open mouth is paramount. First, there's sneezing and coughing. With a closed mouth both feel like being slapped upside the head, but from the inside. And of course, there's yawning. No satisfaction or relief comes from a closed-mouth yawn. (Does it even count as a yawn?) Yet these physiological inconveniences paled in comparison to the real loss: solid food.
Forty-eight hours into my recovery, I'd already exhausted my tolerance for chocolate protein shakes. My anxiety level rose. My mom came to the rescue with her blender, delivering a burst of variety. Cream of chicken soup. Cream of mushroom soup. Cream of broccoli soup. Cream of asparagus soup. Cream of cauliflower soup. (You get the idea.) And it helped, for a short spell. When the monotony again set in, I got more creative. I had a fantasy—a dream—of eating macaroni and cheese. So I cooked a batch from the box. I reveled in the smell of melted butter, the sound of noodles squishing past one another as I stirred the pot, and the sight of orange powder turning impossibly smooth.
Then I scooped it into the blender and added a glug of milk. After giving it a quick spin, I poured myself a thick cup and slipped a sip through my clenched front teeth. It was unspeakably awful. Having learned my lesson, I stuck to a near-monastic diet of soups and broths for the remainder of my recovery. And in that vacuum, my passion for anything related to food reached a fever pitch. I couldn't eat solid food, but I could watch it being prepared on TV, read about it in cookbooks, admire duotone images of it in the supermarket circular, and prepare it for my family.
Seven weeks after the surgery, my doctor cut the wires. Back home my dad asked me what I wanted to eat. It was rhetorical, as he'd already set the water to boil for the noodles. As I sat at the table waiting for my first bite all summer, I just smiled. I had a lot to be thankful for: a loving, supportive family; another school year just around the corner; a passion ignited. And solid food.
Dan Souza, Editor in Chief