Good Food’s Moth Story Slam Winner – Margot Leitman

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Earlier this month Good Food partnered with The Moth for a story slam.  Ten brave storytellers took the stage, but one storyteller rose above the rest to win the competition.  Her name is Margot Leitman.

Margot had originally planned to tell a different story – one about choking and the Heimlich Maneuver – but after Evan started the night with a story about just that, Margot was forced to tell story number two which landed her the winning title.  We asked Margot to share her original story with us on the Good Food Blog.  It’s hard to call choking funny, but this story will definitely make you laugh.  Tune in tomorrow on Good Food to hear Margot tell her winning story live at The Moth…

So, about a month ago I was at happy hour with a few friends. I ordered the steak skewers, which normally I would never do. If I’m at a happy hour I usually go for chicken fingers or calamari, but steak skewers are low in carbs. I’m new to Los Angeles, and in my first month here I was pulled out of an acting class by the teacher to be told I was too fat to work. As a five foot ten woman, who wears a size 8, you can imagine my surprise. Eventually I realized that was just one person’s opinion and I went back to eating foods I actually like…but I digress. On this particular night I was eating very low carb steak skewers.

Starving, I took a bite, and felt the steak get caught in my throat. I cleared my throat a few times but nothing moved. My friends asked if I was ok, and when I tried to answer them I couldn’t speak. I was choking. Grasping at straws, I ripped off my necklace thinking somehow removing a dangling moonstone would dislodge the steak. It did not.  This was a real choke, not a cough cough “I’m choking guys!” choke. Word to the wise, it you can say the phrase “I’m choking!” you are not choking. You are having a sassy night out with your girlfriends and your vodka soda just went down the wrong pipe. When you cannot speak and the entire clientele and staff of a busy restaurant stops frozen and stares at you, then you are choking.

Having a cocktail and a half in my system definitely calmed my brain down. I didn’t panic. I kept repeating the mantra “you are not going to die.” I thought back to my days working in a restaurant in NYC and the Heimlich Maneuver poster that hung in the back. My gay co-worker used to always joke with my about how romantic he thought the Heimlich Maneuver was. “You’re choking, and some big, strong, man pops out of nowhere and rescues you. It’s like a modern day fairy tale.” We spent a lot of time looking and laughing at the poster, and lucky for me I remembered something from it. The international sign for choking– which is essentially just choking yourself with your hands, can signal that you need help without having to speak. I started maniacally doing the sign making eye contact with everyone I could until a friend of a friend’s husband did the signal right back to me, essentially asking me without words, “Are you choking?” I did the signal again to him to confirm and he very calmly came behind me and began to Heimlich away.

First  thrust– nothing. Just bile. I repeated my mantra, “You are not going to die.” Second thrust– nothing. My mantra abruptly switched to, “You might die.” Third thrust, put came about a liter of bile and the steak!! I heard my friend’s husband say, “You’re ok, stand up, try and speak.” I slowly rose and managed to grovel out a scratchy “hello.”

He then gave me a very intense hug, the way one might hold someone directly after saving their life. When he pulled away he said, “I have to tell you something. I’m a distant relative of Dr. Heimlich.”  What? What? Did I just Heimlich-ed by an actual Heimlich? He continued, “This may sound crazy, but I’ve kind of been waiting my whole life for this moment.” This really made me happy.  The thought of this guy’s family all being rounded up at a young age and taught the family tradition of saving lives–just in case, and him never having to pull the trigger until now, makes me really proud to have been his choking victim. I mean, as a distant Heimlich he probably felt like a failure for never having had to use the force. In that moment, I was almost grateful to have choked.