Trying something strange once in a while can open all sorts of doors.
Many years ago, on a weekday afternoon when both of us should have been working, my roommate Dan and I were splayed out on our ratty couch, watching a Star Trek rerun, and eating Ben and Jerry’s. Our rambling conversation soon turned to an in-depth discussion of all the ice cream flavors we had encountered. Dan recalled a Baskin-Robbins in St. Louis that served tuna fish ice cream. I asked him what it was like. He didn’t know, he didn’t try. I wondered why he wouldn’t be curious enough to try a little taste, just to see. I was certainly curious. What kind of tuna was it? Was it Chunk Light? Albacore? How fishy was it? Was it a smooth blend or were there hunks of tuna? What sort of mix-ins or toppings might go with it?
He didn’t want to discuss it any further, the thought alone disgusted him, but I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting a little taste. The more I thought about it, and I thought about it a lot, the more I wanted to taste tuna fish ice cream. Not necessarily tuna fish ice cream, but any strange or improbable food alien to my experience. I found myself seeking out exotic cuisine, particularly at local Asian restaurants. When their Americanized menus didn’t satisfy me, I began frequenting the Asian markets. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; it just had to be compelling. Whatever it was, I wouldn’t have to eat the whole thing, but I had to sample it. If I liked it, fine, I’d have more. Otherwise, I would move on, content in the knowledge that I gave it a shot.
It was this little quest that, perhaps not completely consciously, led me to Asia, where the opportunities were more than plentiful. In my travels, I’ve eaten stir-fried locusts and durians and raw cow intestines, which were served plain or with fresh blood (I chose the fresh blood). Some I’ve enjoyed a great deal, some not so much, and some I almost vomited out, but I never would have known had I not taken a bite.
I stayed in Asia over three years and during that time, my quest seemed to expand of its own accord. It was no longer limited to food, but to all sorts of experience; leading me to some odd jobs including Nude Model in Singapore and Jungle Guide in Thailand. Granted, it wasn’t always a good idea. I’ve contracted Malaria, Amoebic Dysentery, and a few other maladies I care not to mention. I’ve gotten in over my head at times. I’ve been swarmed by bats, sucked by leeches, and charged by elephants. But it was through these experiences that I’ve learned about my capabilities and my limitations, and perhaps gained a better understanding and tolerance of those whose tastes and predilections run counter to my own.
This I believe: if it weren’t for tuna fish ice cream, I might still be on that couch today.
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