Discover more from Squirrel Tomatoes
Episode Six: Amethyst Ganaway
Untitled (An Entire Baby Bird)
Squirrel Tomatoes chronicles my attempt at growing tomatoes while battling squirrels. You can read my last installment, The Swamp.
It also features guest authors who I ask to write anything they want as long as it is at least 69 words in length. I gift them $50 for their efforts. I do not edit them, and they retain all rights to their work.
Today’s guest author is Amethyst Ganaway. Amethyst is a ten+ year restaurant and food industry veteran. While earning her BA at the University of South Carolina, the North Charleston native began her career in restaurants as a server and cashier. After making her way through various corporate and fine dining management positions, Amethyst's resume now includes recipe development, catering, and food writing. She's the winner of the 2020 Les Dames Escoffier International Culinary Legacy Award and currently lives in Albuquerque, NM.
Untitled (An Entire Baby Bird)
by Amethyst Ganaway
Balut. A fertilized egg with a baby bird in it. An entire baby bird. Damn there fully formed. I peel back its shell, expecting to see the white of a boiled egg. But instead, there are fluffy little feathers smoothed down by cooking in its own juices. A little beak, and some big ol’ eyes. It’s veins and insides are almost visible; its skin pink and grey. I feel like a predator plotting to eat its prey while it sleeps. Where do I bite down first? Do I take a wing, a leg, or do I go in for the head? I’m already a monster so I could just chew the whole thing at once. Either way I go, there’s a crunch, then the bird is fleshy and soft. Which came first? It’s not fully formed cartilage melting into my mouth as its feathered body pierces my throat. Should I slurp the liquid? Do I lick my fingers? Can I keep it down?
This is all just my imagination. I’ve never had balut or anything even close to it. But for the past few weeks, I’ve been coming back to this paragraph I wrote months ago about the thing I’ve never eaten because I’ve been seeing some fuck shit lately and it has been really working my absolute last nerve and I need to say something about it.
Why do we have to call food “nasty”, or comment under people’s pictures or posts and say, “OH MY GOD THAT’S SO GROSS”, “I WOULD NEVER EAT THAT” or things similar to it? On one hand, I feel like it shows that the person saying it lacks couth and is probably disrespectful as hell because I’m sure they were taught that, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all.” On the other hand, I feel like it shows that we’ve become a society that’s supposedly a melting pot that doesn’t really care to think about how the words we say about the foods people love, speaks more about our lack of knowledge and respect for their cultures and foodways.
Words mean things, folks.
Don’t yall always say that? And I’m not talking about just surface level, Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of words. But the real, deep down meanings that invoke our emotions and spirits when we read them. The meanings that allow us to find ourselves in between sentences and characters. So when you say how terrible some foodstuff is to you, its not that you’re not allowed to have an opinion, but that maybe your personal opinion should stay that way unless someone asks you about it. When you tag on negative connotations of words to an ingredient or dish, or say things like, “brown food doesn’t photograph well”, or “ethnic” foods should be “elevated”, you’re really implying that this food does not check the boxes to qualify as acceptable to the white gaze and a white audience.
The sad part is, yall really say this shit with yalls whole hearts and chest. We can have foods that we don’t prefer, or that we really just can’t stomach or like or whatever, because everyone is different. Everyone’s palates and senses are unique and take in flavors variably. I’m not saying that you should force yourself to eat food that you don’t like. I’m guess I’m saying let’s learn to be more mindful of the words we let come out of our mouths or from off of our fingertips, because just because you don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that someone else should have to feel ridiculed or belittled or not enough. And let those foods be represented too! I’ve never had balut, and somehow I can imagine its taste, its texture, and the feelings that may be evoked when I do try it. It’s not from my culture, but being exposed to it by the media gave me an opportunity to learn about this delicacy and the culture it comes from. Our palates don’t have to be and shouldn’t be solely defined by our tastebuds. Also, stop saying shit is nasty when you’ve never even had it or only had it prepared one way. Now you just sound ignorant and extra annoying. I promise you keeping your comments to yourself sometime will spare you from looking like a fucking idiot and spare someone else some hurt over being bashed for what they enjoy. Lucky for them, you don’t have to eat at their table.
Thank you, Amethyst.
Please join us next time for an interview with Cathy Barrow.