I frequently receive questions about the bi-line of my blog, “Intrepid Food Exploration.” Is it really necessary to be brave when consuming food?” Abso-freakin-lutely! Beyond eating grasshoppers or some kind of unknown animal product, the act of preparing and eating food can be terrifying. In fact, my very first food adventure was downright life-threatening.
Growing up, I was the ultimate rule follower. Who are we kidding, I still am. But on one fateful day in 1987, at the peak of my preschool career, my commitment to the rules came in direct conflict with my commitment to surviving. Surviving snack time, that is.
Our collective group of four-year-olds were all atwitter with excitement when Teacher Bernie explained that the day’s snack was a special one.The anticipation was building until she got to the part that the snack was salad. That killed the mood a bit - not many four-year-olds get excited about salad. But the energy picked back up when Teacher Bernie explained that we were going to make our salads and peel our own carrots with, wait for it, our very own vegetable peelers. It’s amazing how getting to wield a sharp object will make vegetables exciting to a preschooler.
But Teacher Bernie kept going. This was a grown up moment for us, one that was to be taken seriously and handled with care. Food plus rules and caution? This was my sweet spot. In a very calm voice, Teacher Bernie expounded on the dangers of the vegetable peeler. One errant swipe and fingers would be lost. Blood would be shed. Life would never be the same.
I fluffed my lacey socks, took a deep breath, and solemnly took my place at the snack station. I was ready to peel my carrot cautiously and responsibly. With the cool metal peeler grasped tightly in my chubby little fist, I became nervous - I did not want to lose any fingers. But suddenly my nerves transitioned from jittery to full blown panic. I was standing right next to The Biter.
Now The Biter was probably not nearly the monster that I remember her to be. But in my four-year-old mind, she had angry eyes, a snarl and an insatiable taste for her classmates’ fingers and forearms. So there I was, metal death stick in one hand, bloodthirsty four-year-old inches from the other. I was faced with the ultimate conflict: peel with caution and focus on not losing my fingers, but risk getting bitten, or keep one eye on The Biter, and seal my fate of living life as a 9-digited wonder.
I opted to try diplomacy. Making eye contact with The Biter, I offered a timid smile. Her face morphed, eyes scrunching into an angry squint and she lunged at me, gnashing her teeth. I jumped and turned back to my station, scooching an inch further from her. Head down, heart pounding, I tucked my elbows tightly into my sides. Maybe if I made myself physically unavailable to The Biter, I would make it out in one piece. I slowly slid my peeler down the carrot, an orange ribbon tumbled into my cup, landing on shreds of iceberg. My eyes darted to the right. The Biter seemed to have forgotten about my existence, uninterested in clamping her jaws on my arm. My heart still racing, I established a pattern - slow peel, eye dart, slow peel, eye dart, until my carrot was gone.
The terror of getting bit lingered until the last bite of iceberg was gone, but I survived unscathed by both vegetable peeler and Biter. I never had another run in with The Biter and for all I know she is now a well-adjusted Google exec. But she will forever live on in my memory as my first true food adventure.