I stared at the oyster with a good measure of skepticism. “Are you sure these are good?”
“Just try it,” my Darling laughed. “You’ll see.” He dipped his oyster into the clear vinaigrette and slurped it down. “Yum. These are really good today.”
I tentatively poked the grey gelatinous mass with my cocktail fork. It looked like a hunk of mucus. For someone who has never eaten raw oysters, getting past the gelatinous appearance and consistency of snot is the first step.
“Come on Love, just try it,” he insisted. “One bite.”
One bite. That key phrase has defined so much of my life since the day I made the pact with my grandfather.
I was a finicky kid, who took after my equally finicky father. I didn’t like condiments, sauces, or anything that masked the flavor of plain food (My dad still doesn’t like sauce on his pizza). I lived on hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches for most of my childhood – the only thing I was even remotely adventurous in trying was dessert. Vegetables and exotic cuisines were completely out of the question.
When I was eighteen, my grandparents decided to take me to England. When they told me, Grandpa added one condition:
“I want you to take one bite of everything that’s put in front of you. It’s okay if you don’t like it, but it’s important you take one bite.”
My natural response was a question. “What happens if I don’t?”
He gave me a serious look. “We’ll put you on the next plane home.” I knew he meant business. My grandparents had the means and determination to send me back home if I broke my word.
“Okay. I can do that. Just one bite though, right?”
He relaxed and grinned. “That’s all I ask. One bite.“
Our first stop was in Philadelphia. After a long plane trip, we checked into the hotel and went down to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner. Grandpa chuckled when he looked at the menu.
When the waiter came to take our order, he ordered appetizers for us. I blanched.
Escargot and Oysters Rockefeller.
He looked at me as he placed the order. I could hear his unspoken words. “One bite… Or go home.”
When the appetizers arrived, I sniffed the escargot. There was a lot of butter and garlic involved – two things I actually liked. I closed my eyes and took one bite of the garlicky snails. They really weren’t bad, tasting more of butter and garlic than anything else. The oysters were pretty good too, once I got past the fact that they were oysters and spinach was involved. Grandpa was very pleased – I don’t think he really wanted to ship me back home the next morning.
The next day, while Grandma was handling some business of her own, Grandpa introduced me to sushi for the first time. While I wasn’t fond of wasabi (and still am not much of a fan), eating raw fish wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought and actually tasted pretty good. I quickly figured out that by ordering sashimi, I lessened the risk of biting into a bit of wasabi cleverly hidden under the fish. When we got to England, he increased the pace, so that by the time we returned, I had experienced a whole new world of flavors.
Although my grandfather passed away many years ago, the promise I made to him before that trip to England still impacts my life today. It not only still helps me to get over my fear of unknown flavors, but also has expanded into other areas. The “one bite” philosophy opened my mind to all kinds of new experiences – from paragliding off the cliffs above San Vicente in Brazil to trying (and loving) asparagus.
And now raw oysters…
I smiled at my darling. “One bite.” I fished the oyster out of its shell, dipped it into the vinaigrette and popped it into my mouth.
It was delicious.