English 36


I first became aware of food when I was about six years old. Of course I knew that you put food in your mouth, chewed and swallowed, and that it tasted good or bad; therefore,1 I wasn’t really aware of food until I noted that while my friends were eating macaroni and cheese, my parents were making chicken cacciatore. I was crushed; I wanted2 to be normal. So I retaliated by refusing to taste the wonderful meals my parents made. [3]

Despite my prejudices, when I was fourteen my parents decided that I could go to France to visit my friend Anne’s family without them along to supervise my manners. The main point of this trip being4 to improve my French, so I was under orders not to speak English. Moreover,5 I was required to eat what my new family served. I knew that my parents were counting on me to be polite – and that included eating the stuff that got put in front of me.6

The first couple of meals I had in France were reassuringly familiar: a little bit of cheese; omelet, or quiche.7 Then, one day when I walked through the kitchen, I saw little brown things simmering in a pan. Because they smelled like a pasta sauce my parents made, I decided that that they had to be mushrooms. Even though I didn’t like mushrooms, but8 I figured that at least they weren’t eyeballs. [9] The distribution of the food should of10 made me realize that they probably weren’t mushrooms, but they smelled so good that I didn’t pay attention. When I was on my last one I asked what kind they were; the reply was “mouton” – sheep.

Later that night, I overheard a conversation, between Patrice and Jean-Louis, Anne’s Uncle. They were remarking that I was much braver about food then they had thought11 I would be. That was a real turning point12 for me because I’d understood a full conversation in French, and afterward I gained confidence about trying new foods. Their remarks made me adventurous enough to try different kinds of fish, crabs, snails… even liver!

I visited Anne’s family the next two summers and had many more food and language adventures. During my last visit, Patrice informed me that I was not only to speak in French, and read it too.13 I sadly packed away my English books and picked up a book in French. Since14 it was the fourth Harry Potter book, I wasn’t really miserable at all. [15]