“I present to you, with pride, our country’s greatest culinary treasure, grilled sheep’s eyeball. The chef is an ardent admirer of your work and sincerely humbled that you have decided to stay with us while you complete your latest masterpiece! He is also aware of your sophisticated palate and has prepared this dish especially for you. Marinated in a melange of secret ingredients -exotic herbs and spices, like the KFC in your country. Finger linkin’ good eh? Ha! Wait until you try these beauties!”
My host beams with pride. I’m about to faint. But I must hold it together. These people have been extraordinarily welcoming and let’s face it, I need the generous endowment their government is offering to produce my work.
“You simply must taste-while it’s hot! He sniffs the air, “ahh, what an aroma!”
‘Aroma’ is not the word I would use-it’s a pungent scent. Stings my nose and makes my eyes water.
“Once eyeball meets your tongue, it melts in your mouth. Then you will know heaven my friend! Go on, I insist, you must taste-before it gets cold.”
Naturally, I hesitate. I’ve never eaten an eyeball-or any organ for that matter. He frowns, but then a look of relief flashes across his face. “Ahh! Pardon me. How could I forget? Extra spicy for you, yes?”
I nod slowly. As if that would make it better.
“I shall be right back, with the chef’s exquisite pepper sauce.”
He skips away excitedly.
I have a brief respite. I poke my fork into one of the tiny bluish white lumps swashing around in a sea of muddy water among specks of red and yellow, which I assume are the exotic herbs and spices. It’s creepy to eat something that is actually looking right at you. But how can I tell him, without offending the chef or these kind and generous people?
He’s back, grinning and rubbing his hands together, hovering over me expectantly.
“I’m so sorry sir, please tell the chef how grateful I am that he has prepared such a delicacy for me in such a short amount of time. I appreciate the trouble he’s gone through. I truly do. I know that the ingredients are secret, albeit exotic, but I must know what you’ve used to season the eyeballs because I have food allergies. I should have alerted the chef much sooner. Please accept my apologies.
Now he looks as if he is about to faint. He turns his nose up in the air.
“Madam,” These are the finest ingredients known to man, exotic spices that Michelin chefs from around the world travel to our country to obtain. You cannot be allergic. Impossible. And I regret but I cannot tell you the ingredients. I will bring out another dish for you.”
“I appreciate the trouble you have gone through-are going through to accommodate me. I’m really not that picky. I will take anything that doesn’t have a broth, and maybe just seasoned with salt and pepper?”
“Very well.” He looks as though someone has killed his best friend. I watch him shuffle away, disappearing behind the double doors to the kitchen.
Moments later he re-appears with a new dish covered in a silver cloche. He sets it down and lifts the cover. Hmmm…plain rice. Vegetables-no sauce. I can do this.
He is hovering over me, eyeing me with disdain.
“Excuse me,” I ask. “What is this?” I prod the grey thing in the middle of my plate, which if I’m not mistaken is, a tongue.”
“Uggh! He exclaims! “Do not tell me you have a problem with sheep tongue!”
The tears begin to well up.
“Of course not,” I say. A tear falls onto the plate. I like to pair it with a nice white wine. You wouldn’t happen to have any Sauvignon or Chenin Blanc on hand?”
“Why yes!” His face lights up again! “I will bring you a glass right away!”
“Bring the bottle.”