The Tricks Our Food Fears Play On Us
A few weeks ago, Mister MA and I got a last-minute invite to tag along with a group of tourists taking an oyster boat excursion on the Puget Sound.
The group, from the Philadelphia area, was on a week-long culinary tour of the Pacific Northwest with their cooking teacher, Susan DiBonaventura.
It was an oyster booze cruise of sorts, an opportunity to sample several kinds of raw oysters, pulled right out of the surrounding waters by the folks at Taylor Shellfish Farms, the event organizers. The booze in question was a Pinot Gris from Oregon which paired beautifully with the briny bivalves.
For many of my travel companions, the wine was more intriguing than the oysters. An oyster is meant to be fried, I heard someone say. How will I chew it, I heard one woman complain.
And then there was Helen, who was clearly on the fence. As she surveyed the gorgeous array of glistening oysters -- as fresh as they come – she cringed at the thought.
Her younger sister Mary, who was happily enjoying the oyster bounty, staged an intervention, much like the Life cereal commercial with Mikey and his siblings.
“Helen, you’re 50 now!” Mary exclaimed, holding Helen by the forearms. “You’ve got to try this!”
The sisters turned around and faced the oyster bar, Helen wincing, as she clutching her wine. “No, I can’t,” she said, shaking her head. But what I did notice is that Helen never really walked away. Perhaps there was still hope.
I suggested to Mary offering Helen a Kumamoto, a Japanese oyster about the size of a quarter, a manageable size for most first-timers. The sisters walked over to the Kumamoto display, and Helen agreed. She’d do it.
With an oyster in one hand and her wine in the other, Helen closed her eyes, tipped the shell towards her mouth and let the oyster pass her lips. A few seconds later, she opened her tear-filled eyes and said, with a smile, “That’s pretty good.”
Ever have a Helen-oyster moment? I remember the trepidation I felt eating sushi for the first time in college or when I had my first taste of Ethiopian food. Once you get over the fear and anxiety of the unknown, the feeling is liberating -- even if you hate the stuff -- because now you know. Right, Helen?
Editor's Note, Oct. 6, 2008: A clarification: The oyster boat excursion mentioned in the text was an oyster tasting paired with wine. The words "booze cruise" were meant to be alliterative, not literal.
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