It never ceases to amaze me the depth that people will go to in order to NOT offend other people. Keep in mind that when I was married, I was 24 years old. I was only 5 months old when I left Vietnam. So, I’ve pretty much been a Texan my entire life. Still, there was much emphasis on preserving some of our culture while learning to adapt to a new one. In the Asian culture, food is HUGE. The preparation, the freshness, the taste all enhance the eating experience.
Once I actually started taking friends out to eat Vietnamese food, it was fun because they would always ask me, “How do you eat this?” I’ve always thought that was a funny question because in my mind, it was always the same answer: “However you want to eat it.” I know there are people who will say to you that there is a way to eat food to provide the best flavor and texture, but I was always of the assumption that people have different opinions. What is soft and palatable to one person may not necessarily be that way to another. But, still my friends always wanted to know the “best” way to eat a particular dish. So, I obliged…mostly.
So I went to lunch one day with my wife and mother at a Vietnamese restaurant. We were still new in our marriage and my wife was still a little nervous around mom. Most of the time, we order family style lunches or dinners. This is where dishes are ordered but to no specific person. This way, everyone can get a taste of a little bit of everything. My mother proceeds to order fried shrimp.
Yes, the heads are still on them. And, so are the outer shells. Technically, you can eat everything. It won’t kill you. Being the voracious typical Asian eater that I am, I do eat EVERYTHING on the shrimp. My wife knows that I do this. She first noticed this when I ordered Amaebi at a sushi restaurant when we were dating. For those who don’t know, this is basically sweet shrimp. They give you the whole thing, but they do tempura fry the heads to make them edible. And, ate them I did. Her reaction was a little bit of between shock and confusion since she had never seen anyone eat shrimp heads before. Hey, it’s Texas. And, this was several years before sushi became so popular.
So there I am scooping some shrimp into my bowl and eating ALL of it. My wife has a look of hesitation on her face that she’s trying very hard to hide. I notice it and whisper to her that she doesn’t HAVE to eat the heads. Wanting to impress her new mother-in-law, she dives right in. Like a champ she keeps a straight face while she’s crunching through the shell of the tail and then through the head. She eats a few more shrimp this way, until my mom asked her if she enjoys the food. My wife turns to nod her head when she noticed on my mother’s plate are the leftover fried shrimp heads. “You didn’t eat the heads!?” My mom replies, “No, I don’t do that.” Right then and there, a smile runs across my mothers face as she realized that her white daughter-in-law did something she didn’t want to do in order to impress her. Then of course, she busted out laughing. That was the first moment I knew they would get along just fine.
I think that experience was also helpful to allow my wife to actually try new things. One thing I thoroughly enjoy doing is experimenting with different foods from around the world with her. From Mediterranean to Ethiopian to Asian to Mexican to Texas BBQ, we love to try different foods. Because of this, however, we have also tried very strange items as well. After the shrimp head incident, she will try almost anything at least once to see if she likes it. One of the strangest things I actually got her to try was Balut. It’s basically a fertilized duck egg. We will just leave it at that. If you have a weak stomach, I urge you NOT to look it up. She obviously didn’t like it, but she did try it. She’s even tried blood cake (which she also didn’t like) and even used shrimp paste in her soup. Now, one thing I can’t even handle that she did actually try is Durian fruit.
I can not get past the smell of this fruit. It is horrid. Even Andrew Zimmern of the TV show Bizarre Foods spit this out. And, he eats everything! But, my wife tried it. She states that after you get past the smell, it’s actually very sweet. To this day, I have still never even attempted it. So for all of you in the AMWF community, what is the weirdest thing you have tried? And is there anything you absolutely refuse to try?