There was a time when I hated oysters.
It started while I was on vacation with my future spouse, near the beach in Santa Cruz. We visited a locally famous restaurant for breakfast. Both hungry and curious, I ordered a dish called the “Hangtown Fry,” which was a giant scramble with every sort of seafood thrown together in it. It would be the first time I tried oysters, and I was confident my reputation as a foodie would be upheld as I waved them under my boyfriend’s nose going “Mmm, mmm!”
My first mouthful of those gray, gritty things jerked me back to reality. I forced it down, ate some salmon to cleanse my palate, and steeled myself for another. I tried chewing it on the side to avoid feeling it on my tongue. My boyfriend laughed. I ended up picking them out and leaving them on my plate.
After that, I made a show of avoiding them. I walked a wide path around them at buffets. I handled a can of them at the grocery store with two fingers, as if they were gefilte fish.* When I saw the long lines at the Farmers Market, with people waiting a half an hour to pay a dollar apiece for still-living oysters straight out of seawater, I couldn’t resist making a snide comment to whoever I was with.
That game went on until a few months ago, when I thought zinc might help with my acne, tiredness, and brain fog. If I wanted to add zinc to my diet in a serious way, my only real choices were supplements, which I would rather not pay for, and…oysters. Would it be worth toughing them out to get the benefits of zinc? Were they really as awful as I remembered?
Encouraged by the last line of this PaleoLeap article, I bit the bullet and bought a can of smoked oysters in olive oil at Trader Joe’s. They were smoky, of course, which I like, and rich, with just a hint of texture. What was the crisis with them all those years ago?
Well, look at what we were eating the rest of the time on that vacation. We barged into our hotel room with not one but two grocery bags full of cookies, chips, and marshmallows, plus a cooler full of sodas and sparkling apple cider. (We might have put a couple of bruised bananas in there, out of guilt.) The multiple lunches we scattered throughout our day were deep fried. Plus, we frequently stopped in our tracks for ice cream, cotton candy, and more soda; and we took salt water taffy back to the room. Thank goodness they didn’t have deep fried Twinkies back then.
Today I’m eating much differently, of course. The thing is, my diet became what it is today bit by bit. I swapped out the worst foods and brought in the best, often one by one, over the course of months and sometimes years. And with each swap, my digestion and taste buds made a shift. Each shift on its own was imperceptible, but cumulatively, they created a more sophisticated palate that readily accepted oysters.
Check out this podcast from Shawn Stevenson, in which he talks about learning to like salad. I realized how far I had come when he described it as “like eating grass.” He used juicing to help make the shift.
This week, try swapping out one suboptimal food in your diet for a better one. They don’t have to be direct replacements. Just decide what is the worst thing you put in your body, and the next time it crosses your path, gently pass on it. Meanwhle, decide on one food that you know would nourish your body, perhaps one that’s a bit intimidating, and welcome it. Tell us your story in the comments. If you’ve successfully made a swap before, tell us about that too.
*Which might be good, if I actually tried it.