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Playing Hard To Eat 

Will you work for food?

They say that anything worth having is worth working for. That's valuable advice in terms of ambitions, relationships and careers, but I wonder if some difficult foods are worth the effort. The pomegranate, currently a darling of the pro-antioxidant set, is a pesky member of the produce family. The edible parts of this fruit are the hundreds of bright red arils (juice sacs) nestled within the fibrous outer shell. You have to cut the pomegranate into sections, put the sections into a bowl of water, and roll out the arils into the water. Throw out the shell parts, strain out the water, and you can either scrape the seeds out of the arils with your teeth, or eat the arils whole, seeds and all.

Eating an artichoke could try your patience, too. Here are some actual on-line instructions: Peel off a leaf, dip the bottom (grayish pulp) into sauce. Place it practically all the way to the hilt in your open mouth. Close mouth, with teeth lightly together on the leaf, and pull the leaf out, scraping the soft underside of the leaf off so it stays in your mouth while the fibery rest of the leaf comes out as you pull. Chew and swallow. Then go back and eat the rest of the thing, leaf by leaf "until you get to the inedible hair-like thistles." Yum!

You have to be able to disconnect your jawbones the way a snake can in order to eat a triple-decker sandwich or one of those new super-jumbo burgers with any modicum of dignity. Those lucky snakes can swallow prey larger than their heads, but we unfortunate warm-blooded mammals have to contend with mayonnaise and tomato seeds up our noses and dripping down our chins if we want to chow down on these giant constructions.

Another impossible-to-eat-neatly item is French onion soup. It's usually served in an individual tureen, and comes to the table steaming hot with gooey cheese melted on top of the toasted bread floating in the soup. The only problem is, when you dig your spoon into the tureen, you come up with a long string of cheese that you've got to wind around the spoon, bite off sharply, or clip off with a quick snap of your fingers. I know of one restaurant that serves French onion soup with a soup spoon and a pair of scissors. Very handy.

Shellfish provides its own unique challenges. Peel and eat shrimp is bad enough, what with having to cope with the shells and tails, but crab and especially lobster have to be the most labor-intensive foods out there. When a whole lobster is set before you, you twist off and crack the large claws, separate the tail from the body by arching the back of the beast until it cracks, and break the flipper off the tailpiece. Get the tail meat out by inserting a fork where the flipper was and pushing. Unhinge the back shell from the body to reveal that delicious green "tomalley" (actually the lobster's liver). Then crack the body apart sideways so you can reach the meat in there. Last, but certainly not least, suck on the small walking legs to get those slivers of meat.

I'm sorry, but any food that requires a bib and tools of destruction seems like just too much work for me.

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