My aunt came over to stay last weekend. She’s one of my relatives who I’ve always liked so although my social anxiety nerves were twitching, I was sure I would be fine. After an early drive into New York from Jersey, she popped out to spend the day in Midtown Manhattan with an old college friend who was visiting. The friend also tagged along to come over for dinner.
My dad went crazy with buying two huge lobsters to cook for both of them. It boggles my mind that every time a special guest has been over, whole steamed lobster is what he makes. Granted, he probably asked my aunt (who is his younger sister, by the way) beforehand if her friend likes seafood.
I can’t see the appeal of lobster meat. I tried it once in Boston a loooong time ago and hated the texture of it. No matter that people tell me it tastes the same as crab meat, it most definitely does not to me.
I used to not eat seafood at all, except for… snails. Yes, stir-fried little snails seasoned with herbs and spices served on a platter. This was a dish I looked forward to but the older I got, the more I developed an aversion to it.
For starters, the snails was typically cooked with their shells intact so when it came to eating them, the appropriate thing to do was to pick up one with chopsticks and suck on the opening until the meat inside would pop out a little. Then the whole thing could be pulled out with the chopsticks or a toothpick.
In one childhood memory, I remember doing as I had done many times before; piercing the sliver of meat with a toothpick and dragging it out from the depths of the coiled shell. But I was disheartened by the sight of what the snail looked like, as if I had been seeing it in a new light for the first time ever. I didn’t recognize the feeling then but it happened many times later on until I understood. It was disgust.
I don’t know what caused my impression of snail meat to go from “Ooh, tasty!” to “Ew, I’m eating a bug!” (even though snails are not technically bugs). Something must’ve happened but even I wouldn’t know for sure since my own memories are subjective to what I chose to remember…
Another recollection of mine was realizing snails weren’t just slabs of meat in shells and that they were once living creatures. I came to this conclusion after a neighbor went away on vacation and asked me to care for her pet snails. Her snails were quite large and not even the same species as the ones I ate. Yet I was both revolted and fascinated as I watched the mollusks with slimy coats slowly inching onto a piece of lettuce; their antennas dancing in the air. It was like I could not help but associate their alien-like appearance as something to be afraid of.
I’ve never told anyone this before… I can eat crab and shrimp meat but I’m weird about it. I prefer my shrimp headless because I don’t like seeing the eyes. Either I feel like it’s judging me for eating it or I imagine it is going to come alive again suddenly. Up until a few years ago, I would always let someone else at the dinner table help me pull apart a cooked crab I was eating. Partially this was because I wasn’t good at separating the top crab shell with the lower half but also because the crab eyes scared me. The eyes gave me pause to wonder how the animal processed its death and even made me feel guilty for eating its flesh, especially thinking about how seafood is often bought and cooked “fresh” (meaning the animal is still alive).
Out of all seafoods, I like quahog clams the best. Unlike my permanent distate for snail meat, seeing the inside of a clam was at first alarming for me. I couldn’t eat them because the visual of their fleshiness was a turn-off but eventually I learned to enjoy the taste of them.
Squid and octopus meat are big fat NOs for me. I just cannot get past their tentacles and the suction cups they have or imagine myself chewing on them. The only kind of squid I’ve had was in a type of Korean pancake (Pajeon) and that was only okay since the meat was chopped up into small pieces.
Fish is probably the most common option I’ve had for seafood, though I mostly eat it steamed. I don’t really care for fried fish since I never eat the skin anyway. Silver pomfret is nice yet tedious because of all the little bones that come out with the meat.
Lastly, while visiting Xiamen in China, my mom’s schoolfriend offered my parents and I a seafood dish called sipunculid worm jelly/tusun jelly (土筍凍 tǔsǔndòng). I don’t want to scare anyone with the visuals of it but you can Google the food name if you’re curious. It basically looks like a small worm in coagulated soup jelly and it’s a known delicacy to eat in Xiamen. Needless to say, I did not try it. It’s supposed to be tasty but I wouldn’t know, lol.
Do you like seafood? What kinds have you tried, and any notable ones you would eat again?
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