Food & Drink · Lifestyle

Molly Fisk: The Fisks Do Not Like Vinegar

6916044134_8d20740afc_zPhoto from Fickr user boehjah. (CC)

 Recently my sister Sarah turned to me — she was in my kitchen for some reason — and said, with authority: “The Fisks do not like vinegar.” She must have been making salad dressing — we don’t usually discuss condiments as a rule. She went on talking, but I stood stock still inside my mind and let that wonderful idea wash over me.

I don’t like vinegar. I’ve never liked vinegar. I avoid fermentation whenever possible: pickles, pickled herring, wine, Korean kimchi that people rave about. I’ve tried them and disliked them. Vinegar makes me cough. It makes my sister cough, too, apparently. But being of, shall we say, a certain middle-class obedient American vintage where salad is on the menu every night, I have been eating the stuff for nigh on sixty years now.

I just called Sarah, and she doesn’t remember saying this at all. I can see the half-turn her shoulders made between my sink and the kitchen island when the sentence rolled off her tongue, one in a hundred other sentences that morning, spinach over here, sunflower seeds there, and she was half-way through slicing a cucumber. Isn’t this exactly how life is? Somebody rattles off a statement that changes your life, that you never forget, that you base all your behavior on from that moment forward, and they don’t even remember having said it.

Not that I plan to base my future behavior on vinegar. But when she said “The Fisks do not like vinegar,” I felt such a rush of belonging. I am a Fisk. And it’s true, I do not like vinegar! We are united! I am not alone!

The modern world, as you know, is a lonely place. People live alone, drive their cars alone, eat out alone, look at their cell phones too much, you know the drill. I’m not exempt from this: I’m lonely quite a bit of the time, despite having twice the number of Facebook friends as the population of my rural town, not to mention five cats.

You’d think a person with three hilarious, larger-than-life siblings like mine might have felt as though she belonged to her family, but I tend to forget this. It was wonderful to be reminded I am part of a clan, a people with common characteristics: big wrists, twinkly eyes, and a strong dislike of vinegar.

As I got off the phone with Sarah this morning, another memory popped into my head. One summer when we were 6 and 7, or 7 and 8, she and I traveled around New England with our grandmother in her swell Volkswagen camper bus. There’s a picture of the two of us astride a cannon at Fort Ticonderoga.

Inside the bus’s sliding door, our father’s mother (Jonnie Fisk) had written a list of rules, which had dishes, bed-making, and teeth-brushing on it. It concluded that you had to try “three polite bites” of any food served to you.

“With the exception,” she wrote with her signature green pen, in a fine bold hand, “of sauerkraut.”


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  • Lee July 3, 2016 at 4:00 am

    Vinegar makes me cough too! Actually just over the past couple years it has gotten so bad that I cough until I almost pass out and sometimes even vomit. Can’t be in the same room with an open bottle! Was starting to think I was alone in this… Glad I’m not. Thanks!

  • Molly Fisk June 4, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    Thank you both! I hope you’re going to have salads for dinner tonight… 😉

  • Shirley June 4, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Meant to say, “no surprise there!”

  • Shirley June 4, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    I am shocked that you don’t like it, Molly! Just kidding. I do like vinegar, and my brother likes it, too! No surprise there, is it?

  • Heidi June 4, 2016 at 2:53 am

    Another fantastic post by Molly Fisk!