Food memories

There are some foods that I will never forget my first time with--like croissants. The first time I had a croissant was in Paris, France. It was unbelievably buttery and flaky and golden and pretty much ruined all future croissants for me because what is better than a French croissant in France? Now every time I see one, I am reminded of stumbling over the cobblestones of St. Germain with my croissant bursting into flaky pieces, drifting off on a cool breeze. My croissants may never compare to my very first one, but at least it is a happy memory, which is a lot more than I can say for my first interaction with oysters. 

Being from Connecticut, my family and I vacationed on Cape Cod every summer. I know, I know. One year, my parents realized that I had never tried an oyster before and, being suburban parents who tried to breathe excitement into mundane situations, decided that that was unacceptable.

"At least try it," they said. "How will you know you don't like it if you don't try it." {guilt, guilt,guilt} I had escaped the slimy, phlegmy substance for 12 years and it was all for nothing. 

"So, sweetie, you can mix it with some lemon or a little of this red horseradish sauce, or neither, or both!" my mom explained, as if any of those combinations would make this experience better, "and then just let it slide!" This is not an afternoon of sledding fun, Mom; this is torture. I stared down at the jiggling lump, hoping that I would at least get lucky and find a pearl at the bottom. 

I had opted for the lemon juice AND the red sauce (life on the edge) and as I lifted the oyster up to my mouth I threw open my jaw and sent it down the hatch. There it was...not quite all the way down, stuck in my mouth. You see, it couldn't quite make it down my throat, which had constricted on impact. I chewed and tried to swallow. I smushed the goop against the roof of my mouth and tried to swallow. The lemon and red sauce wasn't bad. I tried to swallow. I couldn't do it. If at first you don't succeed, try try again played on repeat in my head. My face contorted in ways I had never experienced before, and I finally opened my eyes to see my parents grinning at me expectantly. 

"What do you think? Do you like it?!"

I always wondered how they could have asked that question. Did they not see my eyebrows pressed so tightly together that they were now one unibrow? Did they not see the tears streaming from the corners of my eyes? 


"Erglurblurbkch," I managed to blubber out. I reached for my napkin in disgust, waiting for the relief that spitting would give me. 

"No, no, no, honey! You have to swallow it, come on. It's not that bad!"

"Oh, Mom, yes it is. It is that bad," I thought to her violently.  I whimpered and retracted my hand from the napkin. My parents looked away, pleased with themselves for having such brave children. (Oh yea, they made my younger brother try one too. He loved it of course and was happily biting into his juicy hamburger now. Everything is so easy for him). I on the other hand, sat at the table with an oyster in my mouth for thirty minutes.

I'm not really sure why I didn't spit it out. I may have believed that eventually I would be able to do it, but that was also around the time that I dreamt of waking up as a lioness in the african jungle instead of on my small town street, so my beliefs were slightly askew.

It took thirty minutes for everyone to realize that I wasn't touching the beautiful sea bass in front of me. I hated that sea bass. It was so beautiful and it was right there. It was right there. My eye was twitching and I was going insane. The fish was taunting me with its Cajun smells. "Too bad you have a mass of slimy mush in your face. I could be with you instead, but you may never have me. I will be the one that got away...because of a glob of hateful slime." 

"Honey, why aren't you touching your food? Do you feel okay?" I pointed to my mouth and looked at my mother beseechingly. 

"OH MY GOD," my dad said with welcome revelation. We always sort of got each other, my dad and I. "Spit it out! Oh, God, has that been in there this whole time?!"

"What? Oh! Oh, honey disgusting! Spit it out!" mother said. Yea, now she hands me the napkin. 

My mouth tingled with emptiness. An abyss of freedom lay between my gums. I packed up my sea bass to go. I would eat it later after spending a few hours alone with my taste buds, recalibrating.

That was the first and last time I tried an oyster. It may be too early to tell, but I'm pretty sure I don't like them. 



Kiersten UteggComment