"I remember when I was around 12 I learned about the three A's for the first time: asparagus**, artichokes**, and avocados. I think I tried all three for the first time in the same year, and they've been favorites of mine ever since." -David Reiley*
In my case I was eight, and it was avocados -- but not for the first time.
Until I was 8, I *hated* avocados.
The springtime salads of my childhood arrived at the table colorfully adorned with the colors of the Italian flag -- bright red raspberries or strawberries, crisp white jicama and buttery pale green avocados.
And I religiously picked the offending bits of avocado out and quarantined them on the edge of the plate, wiping my fork to eliminate all possible contamination.
Until one fateful afternoon midway through my eighth year.
I had a crush on the sandy-haired, hazel-eyed boy who sat behind me in school. The shy, quiet type. Introspective. Not terribly athletic. A smile that warmed me from the inside out. Sadly, he didn't seem to realize we shared oxygen.
I spent several weeks exploring my options. He was a smart kid, no candidate for a tutor. He displayed no interest in sports, so I couldn't impress him with my ability to hit a fast ball.
After much deliberation, I decided to seduce him with my secret weapon: my grandmother's amazing chocolate chip cookies.
I didn't know it at the time, but this would become a lifelong pattern for me. Many of my most memorable relationships -- romantic and platonic alike -- began with a shared love of food.
I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I had the attention of the object of my affection. He loved my cookies. In return he wanted to share his lunch with me. A super submarine sandwich on a deli roll. Stuffed with mortadella and salami, spicy brown mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and onions. And adorned with... avocado!?!?!?
I had zero experience with relationships, but I was confident that picking apart his sandwich might derail our budding romance. And worst case, he could infer from my reaction that I was picky or high maintenance and lose interest altogether.
Can't have that.
So I closed my eyes, opened my mind, and bit in.
I didn't gag. It wasn't bad. I took another bite. It was pretty good.
And in that moment I set another pattern in motion -- no matter what my previous experience with an ingredient or a recipe, if the future of my love life depends on it, I will close my eyes, open my mind, and swallow whatever's put in front of me. I haven't always LIKED it. But I have always been willing to stretch my culinary comfort zone in the name of love.
So where'd we go from there? Dave Reiley* and I swapped school photos and "went together" for a week and a half. After which he unceremoniously dumped me for the blonde who sat in the last row. Whose mother made fudge.
I soothed my heartache with the latest issue of Tiger Beat, a good friend with a broad shoulder, and a bowl of guacamole.
* Not the same David Reiley, but the coincidence was too good to pass up.
** For the record, asparagus and artichokes make my A-list too.
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