Posted by: literallydelicious | April 27, 2010

How to Eat

When we lived in San Diego, one of our favorite pastimes was going to the zoo. We were a poor junior enlisted family living in an expensive city, so money was tight, but we could get an annual family pass reasonably cheap. One day we’d bought some peanuts to feed to some of the critters and wound up with leftovers at the sea lion show. Our son must have been four or five, and he asked for a peanut. After a while, he spit into his hand, then turned to me, rather disgusted. “I don’t see what’s so good about these. It tastes awful.”

There in his hand was the gnawed peanut shell. I’d forgotten to explain that first he had to take the nut out of the shell.

I got a kick out of that, though it came to pass — of course — that I found myself in his place. We were in a rather pricey restaurant in New Orleans, where a very polite waiter brought me a plate of crabs — soft shell, I believe. Now, give me crab legs, and I’m right on ’em. But this wasn’t just legs; it was the whole creature, and I had zero idea what I was supposed to do with them.

Let me say, I have no shame about my ignorance. It doesn’t embarrass me in the least to tell a stranger I know nothing. Like someone famous said, the only stupid question is the unasked one. I called the waiter over, he called the maitre’ d, and I got a hands-on lesson on how to eat the little buggers.

I’ve needed lessons on a few other things — artichoke hearts come to mind. Some have been worth the lessons; some haven’t. But it’s always an experience.



  1. At the Court of Two Sisters…what a mess I made eating those BBQ shrimp. I was so embarrassed in front of you. Then the soft shell crab I tried the next time. {{shrug}}

    • I remember those shrimp! No need to be embarrassed. I thought you did pretty darn good. If it had been me, I’d’ve been wearing all that sauce, and so would everyone around me.

      Years ago I was at a conference with a fellow writer who was a bit priggish. We got into a discussion of food, and she commented that she loved barbecue ribs but that she would NEVER order them at a restaurant because eating them was so messy and that was just such a tacky thing to do in public. (I wonder how she thought all those thousands of BBQ joints out there survive.)

      Being the person I am, when we went to dinner that night, I made a point of ordering ribs and showing just how tacky I could be. They were lip-smackin’, finger-lickin’ good, and she was mortified to be sharing a table with me.

      I bet she eats fried chicken with a knife and fork.

  2. Luckily, I grew up with Emily Post being quoted as the authority…and that includes which foods are finger foods. My biggest disappointment was lobster. I’d had lobster tail, but when I got an entire lobster, it took so much work to get the meat, that I vowed to stay with tails forever.

    • LOL, Jackie. I feel the same way about crawfish. It’s an awful lot of work for some rather strange-tasting meat. I even prefer my lobster tails already removed from the shell for me. Don’t want to be picking up my good in both hands and wrestling with it! 🙂

  3. I’ve always identified with the hooker in Pretty Woman when she’s eating escargo and flips it across the room.
    My son ordered boiled shrimp at Red Lobster once (I wasn’t with him). He ate them, shells and all. They were almost gone when the waitress remembered to bring the mini-trashcan for the table. She apologized big time, until she saw there were no shells.
    Then she LAUGHED at my son.
    I wanted to smack the hooch, and I wasn’t even there.
    He didn’t mind though, so she must have been cute.

    • LOL on the escargot. I ask for help BEFORE I wind up shooting it across the room. 🙂

      Rude waitress. I’m all in favor of gently offering advice, but there’s a good way to do it and a bad one. I like fajitas makin’s: the meat, the onions and peppers, the pico, the sour cream, the tortillas, etc. But I don’t particularly like to eat them all neatly rolled up into a tortilla. I prefer to roll the tortilla and eat it like bread while I pick through the rest of the stuff. I’ve had a couple of waitresses chastise me as if I shouldn’t be allowed out alone because I don’t do it “right.” Funny thing . . . I also forget how to tip “right” when I’m done.

      btw, I know someone who eats shrimp shells — not the heads, not the tails, but everything in between. He always has, and I figure it has something to do with growing up in Georgia. But it makes no difference to me. I’d still eat with him in public.

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