See, the problem is, the older Gertrude gets, the stranger her meat-replacements are becoming. On our first evening together she proudly set down what appeared to be a cheese-topped casserole. I hoped it was macaroni, and bravely took a bite. The texture, the flavor, the immediate unwillingness to swallow—I couldn’t even wait until she turned her head to make use of my napkin. “What are we eating?” I gasped, reaching for a water glass.
“Tender bits,” she said brightly.
“Of what?” I asked, then quickly said, “Never mind!” because I truly didn’t want to know, remembering where I was. And when I saw the can in the garbage as I was helping clean up, I pushed it down as far as possible so as to resist the temptation to read the ingredient list.
On the second night things seemed initially more promising. Dinner seemed to consist of some breaded meat patties, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. But this was clearly impossible; if you knew Gertrude, you’d realize that she’d never eat anything so pedestrian. I started picking at my potatoes and vegetable, hoping for the best. “Don’t forget to finish your choplets, or you won’t get dessert,” Trudi said curtly. “Clean plate club.”
But I refrained from club membership and didn’t get any tofu pie that night. Aww.
For our final meal together I begged her to let me take her to a restaurant. “My treat!” I said, hungrily, unable to face another canned meat substitute. “Anywhere you like!” But she wanted none of it; she’d planned something special and couldn’t be dissuaded.
She spent the afternoon in the kitchen, humming loudly amidst the sound of the electric can opener, ignoring the smoke alarm’s repeated bleats. Later she came out of the kitchen a little unsteadily, bearing a large, steaming platter. All her cats came near the table and meowed demandingly. I kept trying to slip them parts of my meal under the table, but Trudi got all hawk-eyed on me and finally said, “If you don’t want the hostess cuts, fine, but don’t give it to the cats. It gives them the runs.”
Turns out I didn’t want the hostess cuts. In fact, I spent about an hour afterwards in the bathroom trying to brush that hostess cut flavor out of my mouth, while Gertrude prepared me a little doggie bag of leftovers to bring home to better half, along with her love. Even the raccoons won’t touch it.