Now, where did I leave off? Ah, yes, ensuring the family cats ate better than we did.
Our second line of defense was the paper napkins that had to be disposed of once the plate was cleared away. Over the course of the meal, Undesirables would slowly and quietly make their way into our laps, and when enough had been “eaten,” we’d announce, “Finished! Can I be excused?” Then having carefully balled up the loaded napkin in our hand to make it look as innocuous as possible, we’d ditch it in the kitchen garbage on our way to grab a Ding Dong.
However, since there was always the chance my mother decided to use cloth napkins, we had to have a contingency plan. If baked potatoes were served that night, Undesirables could be surreptitiously sneaked into the cleaned-out skins. My parents gave up insisting we eat the skin of the potato long before they instituted the Three More Bites rule. The cleaned-out skins were then carefully crushed to make them look more empty than they were. There was one flaw in this plan: my dad, the human garbage disposal. If Dad was on K.P. that night, he often liked to stand over the sink, clearing the remnants on our plates into his own stomach. Therefore, our hidden Undesirables ran the risk of being discovered before disappearing into his great maw. However, if one of us was in charge of clearing up — a duty we often volunteered for in order to have control of the Undesirables, Baked Potato Skin Plan in effect or not — we were golden.
Unfortunately, my parents soon got wise to the paper napkin disposal tactic and insisted on checking them before we left the table; this meant we had to go back to the, ah, cutting board. We didn’t really appreciate the value of clean clothes back in the day, so stuffing Undesirables in our pockets seemed like a good idea. We’d spirit the Undesirables off to the nearest bathroom where we’d cram them into those bathroom-sized Dixie cups and toss them into the bathroom trash bins.
Now, this would have worked had we not trained our cats so well. On one particularly memorable occasion, I was up in my room reading Dragonsinger when my mom called me back downstairs. On the maroon shag carpet in the hallway, leading back into the bathroom, was a trail of peas, carrots, corn and lima beans. At the end of this partially masticated parade was a shredded Dixie cup and a tipped-over waste paper bin. Thinking he was doing his job, Feisty had sniffed out the butter-coated Undesirables and gone to town.
Then there was the Great Outdoors. This worked admirably. But only after we learned not to deposit the Undesirables so close to home. Young and inexperienced, I threw large chunks of cooked carrots out of the bathroom window and down into a deep window well. The problem? The window well was also right outside the back door, and the bright orange carrots against the dark backdrop of old wet leaves were just a touch obvious.
From that moment on, we got more elaborate in our schemes for hiding food inside. After all, it was a bit suspicious to run outside into a Minnesota winter night for no apparent reason. It wasn’t so suspicious when it was my older sister (age fifteen) running outside to scream at the top of her lungs. This usually occurred in the middle of an argument with my parents about her buying too many Benetton sweaters or cutting up my father’s pajamas to make skirts. Somewhere along the road of their relationship, my mother had suggested that practice of letting off steam, and my sister used it to its fullest advantage. But that’s another can of kidney beans.