Monday, January 5, 2009

I Ate a Live Creature

I swore upon entering this land of gustatory delights that I would never turn down a food that was offered to me. I did wonderfully on night one, when a steaming plate of fois gras was placed in front of me, and even better on night two, when a delightful arrangement of fig-stuffed duck and bacon-wrapped green beans was served (shall we say, that I am not much of a meat-eater, and am quite satisfied with a bowl of beans and rice). Nevertheless, I’ve managed to stay quite stuffed on most occasions. I must say, too, that when it comes to the cheese here, I can never say “non.”

Yesterday afternoon I returned from the Sunday morning market (with a great little pair of jeans that I hadn’t tried on, that miraculously fit me as well as the vendor had promised), ready to eat. The smell of home-made egg rolls wafted into my nose, and I happily took a seat next to les enfants at the table, ready to be served.

“The egg rolls are for the children, I think.” Patrick took the lid off of a large, deep platter. “Bon appetite!” Neatly arranged across the platter were three dozen fresh, oval-shaped oysters.

When I say fresh, I quite literally mean fresh. They squirmed a little when you poked them. “Ah yes, they are a leettle bit alive,” Patrick reported, as he poked at one with his 2-pronged fork. I shuddered, knowing, I think, what was coming. “You scrap it off with your fork, and then you drink it down. Do not chew it.” A quick demonstration was made, and the tiny shellfish slurped right down his throat. “You don’t have to, if you don’t like.”

For the moment, I decided on a crisp egg roll while I contemplated my choices. I suppose my biggest fear was gagging on the thing; I pictured it biting my epiglottis on its way down. The large dish of shells was quickly diminishing in size, so I decided that if I was going to make the move, I’d better do it. I smiled, picked up a crusty shell, and tore the little guy out of his bed with my fork.

“Don’t laugh,” I pleaded. All eyes on me, expectantly, I squeezed some lemon on the little bastard and sucked him down. I made a great gulp, like that of a camel stocking up for his journey. Sand crunched between my tongue and palate.

“Ooo.” The children let out little squeals, and Patrick gave a small clap.

“Very good?” Florence was gently stacking her own empty shells on a plate. I added my small offering to the pile and let out a light, ocean-fresh burp.

“Yea….oui. I don’t think I’ll have another.” Laughter and pitied looks broke out at the table. “The aftertaste is nice, I think.” They smiled and agreed that I had been brave, and that they were proud of my willingness. I felt like I’d been inaugurated into their club, and was glad I hadn’t missed out on the opportunity to eat a live creature.

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