Several years ago I watched a comedy skit on TV in which a man died and went to heaven. He met an angel at the gates. The angel told him that he could tell the man anything the man wanted to know about his own life. The man asked a question. “What was the worst thing I ever ate and didn’t know it?” The angel laughed. “Oh you don’t want to know. It’s too awful.” “Okay”, countered the man, “what’s the 287th worst thing I ever ate?” “That’s easy,” grinned the angel. “One time you ate a huge slug that was cooked into a chili that you had.” The man freaked out. As I did tonight.
Okay, I admit it. I didn’t wash the salad greens before I put them in the bowl and prepared the rest of the salad. I thought they had been washed. They looked washed. They could have been washed. But whether they were or not, it didn’t prevent the fact that I enjoyed eating most of the salad. I enjoyed it, in fact, until I looked down into the bowl on the last bite and saw a wriggling caterpillar rising to the top of a leaf. I immediately dropped the bowl down on the table with a bang. Oh God, oh God, oh God. I almost ate that. I almost forked it up and flung it into my mouth. That caterpillar probably crawled through the entire salad that I had just eaten. It probably had friends. Who were now in my belly.
I ran to the garbage. I dumped the last bite in the garbage. I took the garbage out to the trash bin outside, running all the way. Disgusting! Even now, ten minutes later as I write this story, there’s a lump in my throat that I can’t wash down. I can’t help but feel it’s a caterpillar friend, enjoying the ride of his life.
What is it about eating live things that gives us the creepy crawlies? I, for one, certainly have had no problem eating things that were dead. We do it all the time. But show me something still wriggling and writhing and I’m heading for the hills. I just can’t get my head – well, my stomach – around it.
Case in point. I was on business in Shanghai, China a few years ago and had dinner with some friends. They decided to order drunken shrimp. I thought to myself, mmm, I love shrimp. Until they arrived. They weren’t so much drunken as in the process of getting drunk. They were squirming and flipping in a red sauce, drowning in it as we all sat around the table watching the show. Needless to say, no shrimp for me that night.
The lesson I’ve learned? You mean besides being reminded that I should wash salad greens? Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s probably been worse than this. Just like the man who went to heaven, this caterpillar – if I had eaten it (and thank God that I didn’t) – might have made it to spot number 100 on my lifetime “Worst Things I Never Knew I Ate” list. Heck, it could have been spot number 50. But I bet it wouldn’t have been the worst thing I ever ate. And I’m sure it wouldn’t have been the last. Dinner anyone?