Saturday, April 18, 2009

The World's most Quiet Dining Room, An Encounter with an Oyster and an Obnoxiously Big Hat

"He was a bold man, that first ate an oyster." *Jonathan Swift

I surprised Nate with dinner out last night, to celebrate his 33 years of life. My hubby does such a good job of taking care of all of us, and hardly ever gets spoiled, so it was fun to surprise him. I arranged to drop off the kids at my Aunt and Uncle's house and was home, ready to go, shortly after 5 p.m., which was when I expected Nate to be home from work.

At 5:30 p.m. I called him, wondering where he was. Still working. I made awkward noises into the phone, hoping he'd catch on. Finally I admitted, "Baby, I made reservations." So the surprise was up, but he was delighted anyway.

We went to dinner at a place called "Skips" in Union Pier, about 20 minutes away. When we first got there, they seated us in the most awkward dining room I've ever been in, in my entire life. There were only a handful of other people, but the room was strikingly silent. You could hear your own breathing, it was THAT quiet. No background music, no eating noises, no conversations at all. I felt like I was in a mausoleum. Of course, this got us giggling and laughing like kids, and eventually, we reseated ourselves in the main dining room, nearer to the buffet, which was much warmer and friendlier.

Let me TELL you about the buffet: $25 for all you can eat crab legs, prime rib and assorted other sea food delights, including salmon, tilapia, oysters etc. AND dessert. It was a steal. I really think, after four or five trips each, that they lost money on us last night.

Which brings me to a moment, late in the meal, when I ... courageous as always when it comes to new food, had a moment of stunning failure.

Nathan was eating oysters in the half-shell. That is, raw. I'd never tried them. But I pride myself on being able to try new things, and I LOVE seafood, so I eagerly reached for one, and asked him how to do it. After prying the funny, quivering mass lose, I proceeded to slurp it from the shell, as is the custom.

(Let me insert here, that somewhere in college I remember reading a story about a man on a train eating raw oysters and going on and on for pages about how delicious they were ... maybe written by Anton Chekhov?? ... and ever since then, I've been very eager to try them!)

Once the oyster was inserted into my mouth, there followed a three-way conversation between my tongue, my throat and my stomach. I imagine it went something like this ....

TONGUE: Oh God, this feels funny. This feels REALLY funny. The texture is all wrong, can I send it down please. NOW?
THROAT: Lemme check with the stomach.
STOMACH (heaving): Not on your life...I'll send it right back up, I don't care how many forks are on the table of this restaurant!
THROAT: Okay Tongue, that would be a 'no go.'
TONGUE: Well what the heck do I do with it now! It's jiggling! Ack! Get it out! GET IT OUT NOW!!

My face must have been hilarious. I never have trouble trying new foods, and the panic in my eyes must have been comical as I sat there considering my options.
There weren't many.
Nate was trying desperately not to laugh.
"Just spit it back in the shell!" he whispered. (Later he told me he suggested this because he figured that it would have looked the same going out as going in...not a very appetizing thought...)
I looked at him in horror, imagining myself spitting out a huge oyster in the middle of a nice restaurant as my fellow dinners (of which there were many, by this point) looked on in shock and disgust.
But what to DO with it?
I jumped to my feet and walked VERY QUICKLY, smiling in tight-lipped panic at the hostess (who I PRAYED would not try to talk to me) to the ladies room where Mr. oyster met Mr. Trash can and I could gag and spit all I needed to in relative privacy.
I felt like such a failure as a foodie!! What a disaster! I eat raw food all the time ... sushi, carpaccio, but the sheer texture and consistency of that oyster was something that I could NOT choke down, even in good grace.
I believe when I reseated myself, I muttered something to the effect of. "Damn you Anton Chekhov for making me think oysters tasted like candy. That DID NOT taste like candy."
So I have officially met my match in the world of food. Raw oysters. (I like them cooked, just fine!) Even today, the mere thought of that slimy, sea creature has my stomach turning. Ewwww.

Finally, we finished the meal in laughter, when the hostess brought out an obnoxiously huge birthday hat for Nathan to wear, while she snapped a photo for us. (See photo below, which is actually a photo of a photo, hence the bad quality) You should have seen his face when he saw it ... while I clapped my hands in glee, having been forewarned this was coming. He gave me a look that must have been something like what Caesar shot Brutus moments before the end ... and then put on the hat, and smiled.
Happy birthday baby!

The obnoxiously tall candles on top of the hat got chopped off in this photo, but the hostess swears it's one of the best she's taken. Ha! I think I still look pale from my oyster encounter...


amy7252 said...

Happy birthday, Nate!

I am thoroughly convinced that raw oysters and clams are solely a boy thing. I distinctly remember accidentally wandering in on the "men's gathering" at a family function and being forced to shoot a cherrystone clam. Slimy, disgusting, terrible, awful. And all of the men thought I was nuts. Whatever, dudes. You can have those nasty things!!

Cassie said...

This post made me laugh out loud! I had to read it to my husband! I agree with your friend...Matt told me that he has tried oysters and they're not that bad...I say, more for you then! :) Happy Birthday, Nathan! I hope our families can meet one day! :)

C Staude said...

I giggled till tears came out of my eyes! I LOVE the photo... did Nate just get to USE the hat, or did he get to keep it? (I am guessing it was a "photo-op only" hat - in which case I am going to have to request you take him there EVERY year for his birthday!)
I have not yet tried oysters, and I think that I will NOT be trying them anytime soon... there are some things in life one can afford to miss.... oysters are now on the list of my "approved avoidables" along with sky-diving and bungee-jumping.

Amy said...

Katrina you are a phenomenal writer. Thanks for sharing that fun story! Oddly, Robert in Michigan this week in Romulus. I wonder if he likes oysters... Amy Sprengel

Katrina said...

Thanks Amy! So good to see you here! Do you have a blog? I tried clicking on the one listed under your profile, but it wouldn't take me there! Hope you are all doing well.

+gmjameson said...

Sitting here in a wonderful mexican restaurant in San Antonio (alone mind you, and does it make me impossibly old that I am not in the least bit troubled by my solo status?) At any rate, wishing you were here - there's not one solitary thing you would need to spit out here! I loved this post, dear Sister!