Since the tooth has been with me for a long time and has served me faithfully, I decided to write its story.
The tooth, being a molar, came in way back in my left upper jaw long after all my other teeth had taken their allotted places. Although when it burst through my gum, it didn’t hurt as much as my new breasts did, coming in unexpectedly when I was twelve, it wasn’t painless.
The four molars at the back of my jaws were accompanied by four so-called wisdom teeth which lasted a long time till I finally got up the courage to have them yanked out. I’ve always believed, without any proof, that everything we are born with has a purpose, including wisdom teeth, appendixes, adenoids and ear lobes without holes in them.
By then the molar I’m writing about had worked hard and, if teeth can be said to learn, it had learned a lot.
First, it learned to chew—in very small bites—the hateful foods I from time to time had to give it:
Calf’s liver, horribly soft except for a sort of gristle in the middle. The molar was often given the job of chewing this meat in the hope of dispatching it down my throat quickly while I grimaced.
Brains and eggs—calf’s brains, that is, which the molar was also given to dispense with quickly. The brains looked like partly cooked egg whites. And the yellow of the scrambled eggs did little to obscure their hideousness.
Ah, but then there was fresh, pure unsalted butter, shaped in a wooden mold and stamped with an acorn on top. The molar didn’t get to enjoy this very often, since the front teeth were given the easy work of chewing. I imagine the molar waiting patiently for its turn at something delicious, which might well have been the savory skin on a fried chicken leg or the kernels in a yellow corn cob.
When I was twelve, the molar was introduced to French cooking. Although it could not really detect the difference in flavor, it did sense the slighter, softer or more crispy substance. The molar would very much have liked to have a go at the Dover sole, sauteed in butter with lemon juice, which revealed to me that fish could be DELICIOUS, but I believe my front teeth were given that privilege. And the moist deliciousness of chocolate pot de crème with whipped cream on top would also have passed the molar by, as would the back-at-home angel food cakes or the birthday cake made entirely of caramel frosting.
There are some advantages, though, to being hidden at the back of my mouth. The molar was invisible except to a prying dentist, so it didn’t matter what it looked like. When the rest of my teeth had to submit to metal braces, tightened to agony every week, the hidden molar remained free. Perhaps that is why I grew so fond of it: nobody cared what it looked like or paid it any attention while it faithfully did its job.
Isn’t that the best fate anyone can hope for?