This year I developed an allergy to shellfish, which was handy because I don’t like shellfish and now I don’t have to look ignorant in nice restaurants.
It’s not just some shellfish either, it’s all of it. I can’t even eat a prawn mayo sandwich and that’s most people’s favourite, at least in England. So you can see how, as I grew up and started wanting to spend good money on good food, it quickly became a problem that I didn’t eat scallops or mussels or – god forbid – oysters.
There is such a thing as loving food and being a picky eater. Or at least that’s what I say to people before secretly lying awake at night wondering if I actually do love food enough. If I really did, surely I would just order the seafood platter and shut up about it because it’s delicious and you like it, ok?
Shellfish is my main one. The amount of salad starters I’ve had ruined for me by some sort of razor clam accoutrement I can’t tell you. Most other things I can eat, although organs are not my idea of a good time. I once ate bone marrow mash in London – it tasted incredible but I had to shut down conscious thought in order to enjoy it.
My expensive dining partner-in-crime is not a fussy eater. He’ll eat anything. In fact if there are oysters on the menu he has to have some. And here’s where I think my point of difference comes as a choosy dinner guest: I really like watching other people eat the stuff that I hate.
Not in a voyeuristic way. I know that the menu is fantastic and I hate that there’s so much on it I can’t eat, but that’s my problem not the restaurant’s. I’m just so excited to see someone else enjoying it.
“That sounds great” I’ll often say about something I would never eat, purely because I want the other person to get it so I can see what it looks like and maybe eat one of the lightly pickled things that comes with it.
Have you ever seen a dozen oysters presented atop a bed of chipped ice on a silver tray? It looks so decadent and amazing. I’d just love to drink a glass of champagne whilst not eating that.
Or dinky little scallops in their shells with tiny chorizo crumbs? Oh man that looks delicious. What about the black pudding salad with shaved cuttlefish? Can’t wait to look at that from across a table.
I think there’s something to be said for having a sophisticated enough understanding of a subject that you can appreciate what is not to your personal taste. Like being able to see the appeal of mid-century modern furniture design without ever wanting it anywhere near your house, but less wanky.
Ultimately, appreciation can push you outside of your boundaries. An admiring gaze can often turn into a tentative taste, which might even turn into ordering it next time. Eventually you open up your palate to a whole new range of delights; as long as the delights aren’t too gelatinous, or sea-scented or originally meant for a bodily function.
Ok so there I some boundaries I refuse to cross. But I really do love food and I can’t wait for you to eat it.
Image credit: Everything Neat