Parker Heinlein

Parker Heinlein

I won’t be eating at Burger King anytime soon.

I like my food to taste like what it is — vegetables like vegetables, fish like fish, meat like meat. The idea of vegetables that taste like meat offends my not-easily offended palate.

Years ago for Thanksgiving dinner I cooked a mule deer roast that tasted a bit like fish. At the time I thought it was awful, but after decades of dining on muleys, I’ve begun to think fish-flavored mule deer wasn’t so bad. It’s one of the few things I’ve eaten that might taste better as something else.

My wife has an even more particular sense of taste than I do. She once told me to never again add turnips to the mashed potatoes. What I considered an attempt at haute cuisine, she declared inedible.

As I grow older and my sense of taste dulls, I find myself drawn to those same foods my father ate that until now I never understood: dark meat instead of white, raw onions eaten like apples, buttermilk and crackers, stinky cheese.

While living with my daughter and son-in-law after Mom died, Dad asked Audrey if she would pick up some more of that thick tomato juice he had found in the fridge.

“Grandpa,” she told him. “We don’t have any tomato juice. You were drinking the salsa.”

He asked her to pick up some more of it anyway.

I’m beginning to know how he felt. I find myself eating the ducks, sharptails and other dark-meated birds before the pheasants. I long for liver more than backstrap, and will eat anything if it’s pickled.

If something is suspected to be spoiled, I’m always first to volunteer to taste it.

After my attempt years ago to replace turkey with mule deer, I’ve stuck with the bird ever since. Except for the oyster dressing, which I refused to eat as a kid, our Thanksgiving meal remains quite traditional.

I have no desire to cook a loaf of bean curd that may taste like turkey, nor do I desire a hamburger substitute that is rumored to dry out quickly. I’m not a fan of mock chicken legs or crab with a “k,” although I’ve eaten both.

I like to know what I’m eating. I usually do. And if I don’t like it, there’s always a jar of salsa in the fridge to wash away the taste.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Parker Heinlein is at