#32 Eat an Oyster

#32 Eat An Oyster


That wild look in my eyes? Terror…

Why #32 Eat an Oyster?
I have spent my life vilifying the oyster for being slimy, snotty, ugly and gray. I realize that adding “eat an oyster” to my list of fears must seem ridiculous. But to me, the oyster is the gatekeeper to all worrying foods. If I can eat an oyster, I can (try to) eat anything.

Conquering #32 Eat an Oyster
The Athenian is famous. Big wood bar, mirrors, tiles, and a panoramic view of Puget Sound with low booths along those windows. Best of all, it doesn’t have a smidge of the modern restaurant about it. Everything looks old and real.

Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner in the Athenian. In this scene from Sleepless in Seattle, they talk about tiramisu, not oysters.

And, importantly, the Athenian is where a great scene in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle was filmed. Susie and I are very happy to be here.

We sit in front the ferris wheel. It’s almost as if we are joining our old friend for lunch.

IMG_8611The waitress comes and I order a Bloody Mary. Susie’s eyebrows go up. I’m not a big drinker, but it’s my birthday and I’m 50. I’m a woman who thinks nothing of having a bloody mary for lunch! I’m living with gusto.

And, (also) I’m seeking some courage.

My oyster arrives on an oval dish. There, reclining on a pearlescent shell that’s perched on it’s very own mound of ice chips is one very goobery oyster. Soft, and ashen, almost glowingly pale. Next to it is a big fat slice of lemon. The kind of lemon that doesn’t grow in this hemisphere. And next to that is a little dish with cocktail sauce and horseradish. Just a smidge of each. As if someone in the back is saying, “now don’t insult this oyster by drowning it in sauces.”

I catch the waitress. “Wait! I need some instructions?”

She glances down at my plate on hand on her waist: “Well, people usually squeeze the lemon on it. And then they put some cocktail sauce on there, or some horseradish, and they eat it.”

I nod. “Is it attached?”

“To the shell? No. It’s just sitting there for decoration.”

The lengths they’ve gone to, to pretty things up, are impressive.

“So how do you eat it?”

She takes in the question for a minute. What else is there to say? “Just pick up the shell and tip it back.”


She’s clearly wondering how we can still be talking about this.

“Do I swallow it? Or chew it?”

This is really the crux of the matter for me. As I’ve been sitting here I’ve been wondering, really wondering (as in picturing and strategizing), what I’m going to do, here in this public place, with Susie sitting about 10 inches from my face, if I GAG on this thing. Will I spit it out? Will it make me barf or heave or choke? These are grim thoughts, but there’s a reason I’ve made it all the way to 50 without eating an oyster. Now you know.

The waitress takes pity on me. “I chew it just 2 or 3 times.”

Bingo. This concrete instruction really helps. I thank her. And wait until she leaves. (One less person to witness the potential horrors to come.)

I pick up the shell and look at Susie. She’s smiling, encouragingly. She’s grabs my iphone and takes a picture.

I put the oyster down.

“I need a minute.”

I pick up the oyster again. I look at it.

And I put it down.

“What’s my problem,” I groan.

“With the ferris wheel you got in, and they did the rest. They shut the door, the hit the start button. But this time, you have to actually pull the trigger. Right? Don’t you think?”

I look at Susie. She’s right. That, (among other things) is my problem. My mind flashes on all the things that will require me to pull the trigger. I will have to make myself jump into water from a height. I’ll have to get up on a stage and grab the microphone for karaoke, stand up comedy, and (oh my god) a TED-type talk.

“I would do it with you,” Susie offers, “but unless ‘using an epi-pen’ is on your list, you probably don’t want me to.”

We laugh.

I pick up the half shell and tip its contents into my mouth. I chew twice. My teeth slice easily through it. This isn’t a rubber band, like calamari, or doughy like mochi. Most notably it’s very cold. The chill feels amazing. Like bright, sparkling beer on a hot day. Like vodka straight from the freezer. The lemon and cocktail sauce are familiar and dance with the delicate flavor of salty oyster.

I order another oyster. (Yes, I do it again, right away, because that’s how good they oyster was. I don’t want to forget or think it was a fluke or a manufactured memory or the Bloody Mary was talking or anything like that.) And I think about how much I’ve maligned the oyster. A creature with so much to offer, not to mention a creature capable of creating pearls! Sure, in the harvest of 3 tons of oysters, only 4 will have made a pearl. But that possibility delights me. The lowly, ugly oyster with so much to contribute the environment, and the potential to produce a jewel. There’s inspiration there. Thank you, oyster.

And I think of that expression: The World is Your Oyster. It’s from Shakespeare and actually means that the person in question has a lot of choice in the matter, or that you’re in a position to take the opportunities that life has to offer.

But to me, now, it means that my life is filled with things that I’ve pre-judged. Today the world is my oyster and plan to give it a try. The world may be filled with surprises for me because the world is my oyster.

P.S. You can find me, Facing 50 Fears on Facebook

© Mary Elder, 2015. All Rights Reserved.


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