My friend-I’ve-never-met, Ben, was commenting on my recent post about tiny tasty fishes that he had a favorite bar where he ate fried smelt like french fries. And best of all, his wife didn’t steal them. Now there was an idea for a blog post, I thought self-servingly.
In a follow up comment, Ben also confided that his wife will not share foie gras, roasted bone marrow, very runny cheeses, cheesecake and sushi maki-rolls made out of mackerel or salmon skin. Lucky Ben. This got me thinking about some of the things my own wife will not eat — especially those that I order with that knowledge in mind (i.e. I will get to eat all of it and not have to share.)
My wife will eat the heck out of a bag of potato chips (one of my personal vices). But she won’t touch the sea urchin I display so beautifully on sushi night. Which, of course, means I get it all to myself. Just today, I was at the farmer’s market and purchased a dozen oysters. My wife does not like oysters, which means I get to eat a dozen. Every once in a while she decides she should give oysters another chance, and tries one. She makes a gagging face and reaches for her wine, and I feel resentful because not only did that oyster die in vain, but I now only get eleven.
Now you might say that if it was something my wife did like, I could simply buy twice as much of it and then we’d both be happy. But that doesn’t work, because then I want all twice as much for myself.
My wife would probably provide moral support to Ben’s wife when it came to the bone marrow. In general, she doesn’t so much like things in the pure-meat-fat food group, so I also get the lardo and the crispy fatty bits of carnitas all to myself. She does not care for things that taste of the sea, or that have textures that are either snotty or boingy. Thus the aversion to oysters and sea urchin, as well as octopus and squid. And, of course, there’s squeamish foods like sweet breads, liver and menudo.
(In Japan, they eat fermented squid guts. And they do not have to share.)
I give her a lot of credit for eating the gristly parts off the bones of the Korean short ribs. Perhaps it’s because she knows I’d eat them if she didn’t.
When we first started dating, my wife was a far less adventurous eater. She used to cast a wary eye at many things she now happily consumes — fish, my piles of foraged mushrooms, duck fat, sushi, chili peppers. She’s come a long way. Which only means there are that many more things I have to share.
I guess that’s what this all comes down to on a most basic level — our childhood impulse not to share our favorite things, and our socialization to feel guilty for that impulse and to therefore begrudgingly share anyway. Or perhaps, put in more magnanimous terms, the desire to see your loved one have a richer life, to share your passion for something you cherish with them, to see them experience the same sensuous joy you do when they bite into one of the world’s delicious foods. And I guess that’s actually what it’s really all about.