On this blog I’ve discussed fears of kamikaze air-fresheners and lightning bolts to the head. One of my biggest fears which I have not revealed to you dear readers is an odd one. It is something that has baffled polite dinner guests bringing a platter for a New Years Eve get together and friends who want to celebrate their birthday at a renowned seafood restaurant here in Southwest Missouri.
I have an irrational fear of shrimp.
People who I am just getting to know are baffled by this and this is not a simple story to explain in passing in a matter of seconds. This is one of those things where if someone offers a sample of shrimp I politely say, “No thanks” and then explain, “It’s a long story.”
Now is the time for that long story.
I was about ten years old when my Dad’s side of the family had a get together at a local restaurant called; Po’ Folks. As we all gathered around that enormous table, my second cousin who was a toddler at the time sat at the head of the table in his high chair. Looking over the menu I felt adventurous. There in print were two things I had never tried together before, the first being very familiar as it was a staple for my family and I on Saturday nights. The second was something exotic and would make me feel like a culinary explorer if I tried it. This is when I would make the mistake of ordering popcorn shrimp.
While we were waiting for our food my cousin began to get fussy in his high chair and apparently this behavior warranted being fed fried okra to pacify him. It didn’t pacify him, it only made him more vocal. He picked up one of the pieces of fried okra and then said loudly, “This looks like…dog…” and because he was young his mind was trying to fill the blank with an appropriate word. Finally the kid spat his word out, “Food!”
Someone at the table remarked, “That is not what I thought he was going to say!”
While everyone was paying attention to my young cousin, the crew brought out the meals. Suddenly my attention was diverted to my plate of hot steamy popcorn shrimp. This new exotic fried treat was going to be my ticket to palatable adventure and something to brag and talk to my school friends about.
As we all sat there dining and talking, I made it about a third of the way through my popcorn shrimp when I made the mistake of peeling back the crispy fried treat as if I were peeling fried chicken. Underneath the shroud of fried tasty goodness, lied a pink, fleshy, veiny piece of something that looked like a tiny cartoon brain. Suddenly I felt like the one who should be at the end of the table in a high chair trying to make distasteful exclamatory remarks because my mind was overwhelmed with alarm. After the image of pink veiny flesh was burned into my cartoon brain, I tried to bring the shrimp to my lips and bite down with my incisors. Everything bad there could be about eating shrimp came out in that moment. It became in-palatable and felt like I was chewing on large fish flavored gummy worms. I couldn’t do it, put the shrimp back on my plate and sat there politely eating my french fries and drinking my Dr. Pepper.
A little way through the meal my parents wondered why I had stopped eating my dinner. I looked at them without saying a word, and gently peeled back the fried outer layering to reveal to them the miniature brain-like substance. All they had to say was, “Oh…”. We didn’t even ask for a doggy bag, it turns out my parents don’t care for shrimp either.
What is something you have tried numerous times after a traumatic event but have found every time you just couldn’t do it?