When I was 17, I spent a month as an exchange student in Paris. I remember vividly one evening when my host mom had prepared a questionable looking fish of sort for dinner and placed it proudly in front of us. As hard as I tried, I could not eat the meal and afterwards my host mom took me aside. I knew she wasn’t happy with me, and I had tried to explain my eating habits, but to no avail. She sat me down and, in the only English I ever heard her speak, she said, “You know, there are people starving in China.”
Life is a bit more complicated when you are a picky eater, a category in which both my partner and I fall. We’re not trying to be difficult, but we just don’t like certain foods. Ok, a lot of foods. In our defense, we have tried, but no matter how some things are prepared, we just can’t eat them. So far this doesn’t sound so strange, right? Hang on a sec.
The foods that generally fall onto our “can’t eat” list include all seafood, most vegetables, and just about anything made from these two food groups. It would be one thing if we could just avoid these dishes and move on, but people constantly harp on the fact that we don’t eat these things. And it’s annoying. I’m sorry I don’t like lobster, but I don’t belong in a circus freak show.
Fast forward to 2010. Throughout our travels, we’ve done a good job of finding things we can eat. Luckily grilled meat of some sort is a pretty common staple throughout the world. There are some trouble spots though that cause problems. Like the Bahamas.
I absolutely loved my brief stay in the Bahamas but, and I think they’ll probably admit to this, their culinary point of view can be at times a bit questionable. As far as I can tell, their entire diet is based on conch. Or a dare. Or both. During one meal, our host was describing all of the possible variations on conch and, like a scene from Forrest Gump, I began to fully understand the width and breadth of my problem.
I, unlike Scott, can stomach small amounts of foods which I don’t like in order to be polite. I had to do this in Morocco when I had to hold my noise to get down some sort of fresh veggie dish that had been made for us, and I did it again in the Bahamas. As it turns out, most of the conch I had was actually really good. The probable reason though is that it was breaded and deep fried, a universal cooking technique to make anything taste good. But the inevitable happened and a seafood showdown ensued.
We were at a meal, hosted at a local restaurant that had been set up to highlight Bahamian history and culture. That part was great. The meal started out as I had expected, with a couple of conch variants, all of which was fine. The next course though was too much for me to take. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I’m pretty sure it was something like fish with a side of fish and a delicious fish sauce.
I’m slightly envious of people who like seafood. They always look so happy when they’re consuming shrimp or lobster and while I have tried, that same look of fishy pleasure is not to be for me. But what irritates me is that people can’t seem to fathom the concept that there are people in this world who actually don’t like seafood. Worse than that, they never, ever plan for us.
When the fish platter was announced, I just couldn’t do it. I was tired and hungry and there was no way I could pretend to eat the seafood buffet headed my way. I tried, as politely and quietly as I could, to indicate to my hosts that I could not eat the kind entrée that had been prepared.
Simultaneously, I must have sprout antlers, since that could be the only explanation for the looks of shock and amazement I received in response to my confession. I doubt any other announcement could have elicited the same response.
They quickly regrouped and sent out what I suppose used to be red meat, but in its current form was more appropriate for shoe repair. The meal had become a disaster and I was starving.
I’m not writing this to say, woe is me, rather I want to announce to the world that it is not a crime to not like seafood. I’m not sure about this, but I am fairly certain that out of 6 billion people, Scott and I are not the only two people who don’t participate in consuming this particular food group. I understand that many people love their lobstah rolls and chowdahs, which is fantastic! Yay you! But please, don’t presuppose that we all have dreams of boiled crustaceans and instead of spending 20 minutes discussing how odd we are, help us find some ham or something.