She Sells Sea Kelp

Bag of old kelp, going cheap!

The back story: It’s March, 2011, and I’m in in a panic over the Fukishima nuclear disaster. Convinced that vast waves of radiation are about to hit Southern California and poison my young daughter, I order a bag of dried kelp online. I’ve read somewhere that eating seaweed will protect her thyroid gland from the toxic effects of radiation exposure. This stuff, in particular, is premium–I’ve gotten it from a place in Maine that promises it’s the purest, highest-grade variety available–the Humboldt County Thai stick of seaweed.

“As opposed to the commercial crap you get at Whole Foods?” Mike teased.

“Whatever,” I replied, not laughing. “It’s got to be the best. This is serious.” Not to mention that I’d already been to Whole Foods, and their entire seaweed section was sold out. I wasn’t the only paranoid mommy in L.A.

The kelp arrived in a huge plastic bag inside of an even huger box. I’d ordered a pound, not quite registering just how much that would be. It was a lot. But I was happy to have it. For an entire year I fed it to Myra-Jean in everything–smoothies, soups, salads, you name it. I even gave her great, desiccated chunks of it to chew on whole. She was young enough to not complain–sometimes I even thought she liked it.

But time passed, and my fervor to protect MJ’s thyroid gland abated. It had been a year. Most of the radiation had surely dissipated. Plus, she was getting pickier about her food. You couldn’t just toss the kelp into anything now and expect her to eat it. It had to be hidden, and even then she often found it. Slowly I cut back on adding it, and one day I stopped altogether.

There was a lot left. I gave some away, but even so, we had a huge bag remaining. A shocking amount.

Being me, I threw it in the back of the cabinet.

And there it stayed, a dark, solitary hulk squatting behind bags of white beans, dusty cans of baby corn, and a never-opened box of instant miso soup packets. Even though it took up an absurd amount of space, I liked seeing it there. It felt reassuring. Bring on the next nuclear disaster, I thought; we’re ready.

So when Mike periodically asked if it could be tossed, my answer was always the same:

“Let’s hold on to it. You never know if we’ll need it again.”

Finally, about a month ago, Mike drew the line. It had to go. At least from the kitchen. I knew he was right. It was ridiculous to keep it any longer. It probably wasn’t even edible anymore. Although does dried seaweed really go bad? Has anyone done the research? Oh, well. It wasn’t going to be me who found out.

Pulling it from the cabinet, I headed for the outdoor trash bin. But I couldn’t do it. It was just too drastic of a move. So, in a burst of my usual non-pragmatism, I stuck it in the utility room. On the dryer. That’s on the way to the trash, I reasoned, but not there yet. It’s like purgatory, for bags of seaweed.

And there it remained for weeks, waiting for someone to decide its fate.

This morning Mike picked it up and raised it before my eyes. “We need to make a decision about this.”

“I know,” I said guiltily.

“Can I throw it away?”

“No. Yes. No! Um–look, can we just stick it in the emergency supplies box?”

Mike shook his head sadly. “There’s no room for it.”

Damn. I sighed. “I’m just not ready to let it go. It’s the purest kind of kelp. From the Atlantic. No radiation, no pollution…”

There was a pause. Finally, looking slightly defeated, Mike placed it back on the dryer and threw his hands up.

“You deal with it.”

And I will. In the next year or two. In the meantime it’s making the utility room smell pleasantly of the sea.

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