A change of taste

Family gatherings in North Vancouver | Art Therapy with Kimberly

I spent most of my life as an incredibly picky eater, I grew up stubbornly refusing to eat anything but pizza, cereal or yogurt. 

As kids, every summer when we would return to Canada we would always stay at my Grandma’s house in North Vancouver. As much as I loved going to Grandma’s house, dinner time was a very serious occasion that required my sister and I to come up with sneaky ways to avoid eating disgusting vegetables.  My grandmother knew we hated vegetables so she would try her best to cover it up with something delicious. A common trick of hers was to cover boiled broccoli with grated, cheddar cheese. As a kid, I absolutely despised broccoli. No matter how much cheddar cheese was coating that disgusting greenery, I knew what lay beneath. Elizabeth and I devised a plan that chewing the broccoli it until soft, then, ever so secretly, spitting it all out into the napkin. This was a somewhat flawed plan as there would be damp, bulky napkins with a greenish hue, right beside our dinner plate. My mum would give us a look of “I know what you are up to and you aren’t getting away with it.”

If the napkin trick failed, we’d carefully drop the broccoli on the floor for my grandma’s wiener dog, Schatzi, to consume for us. Schatzi’s favorite thing in the whole world was cheddar cheese, and just like us, she hated vegetables. So after dinner, my grandma and mum would say “wow! You guys ate all your veggies!” My sister and I would proudly smirk at each other, asking if we could go outside to play. They allowed us to go outside but only after we cleared the table. However, as we got up to clear the table, we noticed a trace of scattered broccoli with all the cheddar cheese licked off, lying on the carpet. We both froze in horror, quickly trying to think of how we could possibly hide our crime scene. My mum would inevitably notice our expressions, look on the floor and furiously demand we both get another bowl of broccoli each. If we didn’t finish it we would not be allowed to go outside and play. With tears of sorrow and regret, we both agreed, scowling at stupid Schatzi for failing us yet again. Elizabeth would cave and eat all her broccoli and would then be granted permission to join my cousin outside. The living room was just above the backyard so I could peer down and see them playing and laughing in the sprinkler. I would sit there alone screaming and crying, begging my mum to just please let this one go. She would look at me and say, “Kimberly, all you have to do is eat that broccoli and then you can go outside. Just eat the damn broccoli.”

Nowadays, life in Beijing has forced me to widen my pallet. While wandering through Wangfujing, a market famous for its peculiar “snacks” like snake meat skewers, pigeon fetuses, dog and BBQ tarantulas, I noticed a scorpion stand seemed to have caused quite a crowd. I peered through the heads and saw scorpions wiggling on a stick as a bunch of foreigners stood around, taking photos and cringing at the thought of eating them. One of the people I was with decided to try a scorpion, asking if I wanted one. I laughed and immediately declined. Everyone in the crowd took notice of this and simultaneously cheered me on. I don’t do well under peer pressure, and this cheering caused an even bigger scene to gather. My ability to stand my ground and refuse began to fade. I reluctantly gave in, asking that they please BBQ the scorpion a tad longer. I bit the now crispy, and hopefully dead, scorpion off the skewer and without even so much as a full chew, I quickly swallowed it, feeling it scratch down the back of my throat. I could overhear an American girl pass by saying loudly, “Eww! I would never eat a scorpion!” Neither would I, I thought. But sometimes you surprise yourself.

On another occasion, I was teaching a little boy English and reluctantly ate a pig’s face to appease my hosts. I took the subway all the way out to meet the boy’s Dad at the train station. As we drove to their home he to put on some music. I figured it would be something Chinese but as the music slowly faded in I could hear what sounded like pop country. “Is this Taylor Swift?” I asked him, slightly taken back by his choice of music. He nodded, looking straight ahead and softly said, “Yes. I like her.” When we got to the apartment the little boy ran towards me, screaming at the top of his lungs in excitement. The wife followed behind her energetic son, smiling at me and gesturing that I join them for dinner. I wasn’t particularly hungry but it would’ve been rude for me to say no. The dinner was baozi (steamed bun with meat filling, similar to dumplings) with rice and sliced cucumber smothered in chunks of clear, translucent meat that looked questionable and unappetizing. They served me everything and I politely asked what kind of meat was covering the cucumber dish. “It is uh….. pig… face” the husband responded, smiling proudly, “foreigner, they love this dish.” I smiled thinking about how I could possibly get out of eating this in the politest way possible. I decide to eat around it, pushing everything around on my plate, inconspicuously leaving the chunks of pig nose. Unfortunately, they noticed and insisted I try. So I went ahead and ate the face of a pig and tried desperately not to gag as they both watched me smiling saying, “it’s delicious, right?”

Now, at the mature and wise age of 26, I have eaten a list of things that would have caused little Kimberly to faint and cry in the corner. 

I’ve come a long way.

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