NUTRITION IS A FORCE MULTIPLIER
A MONTHLY GASTRONOMIC CHRONICLE OF WAR
by Roland Thompson
THIS MONTH: THE POISON BERRY
The first time I saw combat I was seven. It was a sunny day in Northfield, New Jersey. The Vietnam War was ending. At the time, I wanted to be a spy.
I was hiding in the hedge that separated our yard from the Zaberers’, owners of Zaberers’ restaurant. A billboard on a traffic circle in the nearby town of Margate advertised ZABERERS—JUST MINUTES AWAY! Yet eighty miles distant, on the edge of Deptford, another billboard said, YOU’RE JUST MINUTES AWAY FROM BEING ZABERIZED! Billboards throughout South Jersey repeated the promise, until the very fabric of space-time was called into question. In twenty years, I only saw Zaberers’ restaurant a handful of times.
One of those sightings occurred just hours before I’d hidden myself in the hedge. My dad and I were on our way to Radio Shack after the death of his homemade stereo. We were stopped at a red light. There, on the right, was Zaberers’.
What started out as a cabin, chimnied on two ends, had been annexed on all sides by screened-in porches, which at some point had become dining rooms, onto which were built screened-in porches, which then became dining rooms needing new screened-in porches, and so on. Because rain had to draw off the patched-together roof, each successive ring of construction was a little lower than the last, until it seemed the periphery could only accommodate dwarves.
And there were dwarves inside Zaberers’. I knew this from my friend Arturo, who had a clip-on tie in his sock drawer specifically for his weekly dinners there. From Arturo I also learned that Zaberers’ sheltered a devilfish in deep-sea tank, a two-headed calf in suspended animation, and the beating heart of a Sasquatch.
Naturally, I wanted to eat at Zaberers’, but it was not that easy. There was bad blood between us after their shepherd had torn up our cat.
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