I hate lemon pepper. It knows good and damn well why I hate it, too.
Out of all the spice blends, I detest this offender the most. I’d like to tell myself it’s because of the artificial, metallic taste it imparts on whatever you sprinkle it on but, if I’m honest, I can trace my disdain all the way back to my college days. College really tests the mettle of any budding foodie or home cook–you’re forced to scarf down Oliver Twist-like gruel in the cafeteria or get creative with a hot pot, some ramen noodles, and an accompanying packet of MSG-laden ‘seasoning’. If you were fortunate enough to live in a dorm that had a “kitchen” (I am using that term very loosely), you might have gotten a chance to show off your imagined culinary skills with the one pan you owned and your set of plastic utensils from Target. (Don’t act like you don’t remember.)
I graduated from college 10 years ago–before the days of co-ed dorms so having a guy cook for you involved a series of MacGyver-like maneuvers like propping open the building’s side door with a brick or, for us first floor dwellers, leaving your window unlocked so your Chef Boyardee could uncermemoniously climb in. Romantic, isn’t it? One evening in my senior year, my then boyfriend offered to come over to my dorm and whip up dinner; I obliged, reasoning that if he was willing to climb through a window like a cat burglar with an armful of groceries, surely dinner was going to be a grand affair. Later that night, he showed up at my window with a flimsy plastic spatula, an equally flimsy pan, a package of chicken breasts, and his secret weapon: a 32-ounce container of lemon pepper.
Like rats in a maze, we surreptitiously navigated the hallways, keeping an eye out for the ever-present RA, careful not to speak a word as we tiptoed to the kitchen. Once inside, we shut and locked the door and he began his rather weak mise en place which consisted of a quick rinse (too quick, if you ask me) of the chicken–all the while bragging about his unmatched culinary skills. I watched in silent horror as he seasoned and seasoned and seasoned the chicken breasts until they were a sickening sunshine yellow color, barely recognizable. As the poor faux yellow birds met their unsavory demise in the frying pan, he turned around and smiled at me–even had the nerve to wink–as I contemplated how I was going to consume a forkful of the lemon peppered mess.
After the chicken had reduced to about a third of its original size after having been cooked to hell, he proudly slapped a plate in front of me and stood there watching, gauging my reaction. I took a bite and tasted aluminum–as if I had licked the side of a Coke can. The second bite wasn’t much better except that time it tasted as if I had licked the side of a Coke can and then sucked on a lemon. He was pleased. I was disgusted. He reached across the table in an attempt to hold my hand. I recoiled. He asked me something but I was too busy complaining about my now-numb tongue.
He asked me a question just as I yelled something about having a metallic taste in one’s mouth is the first sign of a stroke.
He repeated his question. I rattled off stroke statistics.
He got down on his knee. I got up from the table.
He got up and threw a small box on the table and stormed out. I later opened it and discovered the most gorgeous ring I’d ever seen.
I tried, but it was too late for apologies. A proposal was ruined. An engagement obliterated. Damn you, lemon pepper. Damn you.
Nominated for the Epikur Writer of the Year Award by Epikur Magazine
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