CURVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (6)
July 17, 2023
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of reconsidered passions, reassessed hates, and reversed feelings everywhere in-between. Series edited by Adam McGovern.
WHOLE BELLY CLAMS
When I was a toddler (so the family legend goes), I would eat anything – even whole belly clams. I’ve never understood why they became so emblematic, since I haven’t eaten a whole-bellied clam since I was a toddler. Apparently they have a weird texture underneath the fried breading? In any event, at some point around my third birthday, I decided to give them up. I also gave up all other food except peanut butter sandwiches, which nourished me almost exclusively until college.
For over a decade, every exchange with a responsible adult led to some variation of “When are you going to eat like a normal person?” Over time, it grew into a moral panic. Through years of family gatherings, I was seated alone until I decided to eat what everyone else ate. Near-strangers thrilled themselves by threatening, “Let him spend a week in MY house; he’ll clean his plate all right.” My sixth-grade Home Ec teacher sent me to the principal because I wouldn’t taste the apple crisp I cooked. I was badgered, bribed, bullied, cajoled, and, on at least one occasion, pinned to the floor as cooked carrots were shoved in my mouth. After each of these incidents, someone would shake their head, exhausted — “But you used to eat everything. Even WHOLE BELLY CLAMS.”
It turned out I would change my diet when I was damn well ready. It was a constant struggle to hide my secret from my peers — no pizza, no hot dogs, no mac and cheese, no burgers (though french fries got a pass) — but dating was a different story. How would a girl take me seriously if I gazed at her across a candlelit table holding a peanut butter sandwich? So I sucked it up and started trying new things — some buttered pasta here, a forkful of peas there. It turns out food can be good! After a few years of effort, I chose to plateau as a vegetarian — why court the ethical issues of carnivorism if I didn’t have to?
When I became a parent myself, I was alarmed to see my son follow the same routine. His repertoire was wider than mine — chicken, pizza, pasta, all the usual kid stuff — but I still felt a duty to press him out of it. My wife suggested that forcing him to relive my guilt and shame might not be fun for any of us. I’d managed to grow up healthy despite everyone’s fear and outrage, and he was already several steps ahead of me. It seems human children are programmed to keep growing, whatever crap they choose to swallow.
I’m still a lamentably picky eater, but you wouldn’t notice unless you spent a lot of time with me. Living in New York City gives me a lot of options I might not have elsewhere. I do most of my family’s cooking these days, and I like trying out new things. But I still have no plans to eat a whole belly clam. Those things are for babies.
CURVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Tom Nealon on PIZZA PURISM | Holly Interlandi on BOY BANDS | Heather Quinlan on THE ’86 METS | Whitney Matheson on THE SMITHS | Bishakh Som on SUMMER | Jeff Lewonczyk on WHOLE BELLY CLAMS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER | Nikhil Singh on LOVE ISLAND UK | Adrienne Crew on CILANTRO | Adam McGovern on MISSING PERSONS | Art Wallace on UFOs | Fran Pado on LIVERWURST | Lynn Peril on ELTON JOHN’S GREATEST HITS | Marlon Stern Lopez on ADOLESCENT REBELLION | Juan Gonzalez on STAN & JACK or JACK & STAN | Christopher-Rashee Stevenson on BALTIMORE | Josh Glenn on FOOTLOOSE | Annie Nocenti on SIDEVIEW MIRROR | Mandy Keifetz on BREATHLESS | Brian Berger on HARRY CREWS | Ronald Wimberly on GAMING AND DATING | Michele Carlo on HERITAGE FOODS | Gabriela Pedranti on MADONNA | Ingrid Schorr on MAXFIELD PARRISH AND SUE LEWIN | Mariane Cara on ORANGE.
JACK KIRBY PANELS | CAPTAIN KIRK SCENES | OLD-SCHOOL HIP HOP | TYPEFACES | NEW WAVE | SQUADS | PUNK | NEO-NOIR MOVIES | COMICS | SCI-FI MOVIES | SIDEKICKS | CARTOONS | TV DEATHS | COUNTRY | PROTO-PUNK | METAL | & more enthusiasms!