#3 of 40 Things
No. 3 on my list of 40 things is to try a food to which I’ve always had an aversion. When I wrote this entry back in March 2009, I had absolutely no idea what that food choice would be and I was absolutely NOT excited about it. But I was determined to be adventurous and try something to which I normally would turn up my nose. The fact that I accomplished #3 without even realizing it says a lot about who I’ve become in adulthood.
Since childhood I’ve been a particularly finicky eater, never enjoying vegetables or mushy foods or any kind of nuts. I was raised on Southern comfort food, but you won’t find me eating collard greens or grits. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that texture is just as important to me as the taste of food, so anything soft or grainy like oatmeal and applesauce has never appealed to my palate. I stopped eating mushrooms in college when I saw them sitting in a jar filled with formaldehyde. And rich foods like decadent chocolate desserts or dense sweets like cheesecake really don’t excite my taste buds. (You don’t want me to get started on very salty foods, either. I’m not a fan.) Even the most basic foods with the most simple tastes can turn my mouth into the nastiest display of rejection. And yet, on the Friday before Christmas while sitting at a table of friends at my office Christmas party, I reached to the plate of appetizers and popped a little calamari ring into my mouth.
Did I know it was calamari? Yes, actually, I did. And I’d not been inclined to try it at any point in my life, including that very night. It had been sitting abandoned on the appetizer plate for at least 20 minutes and I’d had no thoughts about it at all. But then the bruschetta was gone and the fried portobello not even a choice for me, and the entrees did not look to be arriving in the next few moments. I was starving, and there was only calamari. I realized that two things were in my favor: one, it was deep fried with herbs in the batter, and two, it was paired with pesto aioli. If nothing else, the sauce would be strong enough to mask any taste that might cause a gag reflex. I popped that little squid into my mouth and chewed it like it was candy. How surprised I was at the wonderful taste of it! And the texture was not intolerable to my tongue despite being quite a bit more chewy than any deep fried goodness should be. So just like that, I was eating calamari and wishing there was more of it on the platter!
It was hours later that I remembered my my list of 40 things, and I was so disappointed in myself for not photographing the milestone. A moment later I realized (with delight) that it meant I’d just have to eat it again! I ordered it tonight from the same restaurant, which just happens to be located on the first floor of my office building, and brought it home for its photo op. On second try I’m reminded of an essential truth: some things will never be as good as the first time. I’ve also learned the hard way that bites of calamari are much better than portions. [Also, I could drink pesto aioli for dessert!] I’m not nearly as satisfied with the little dish as I was that first night, but I’m certainly no longer going to avoid it. In small quantities, well-fried and with the right accoutrement, I can actually say I’m now a fan of calamari. If you’d told me this a year ago, I would have laughed and laughed. I mean, seriously… eating tentacles? Not very likely. Yet here I am to tell the tale!