When I was little I stumbled across a book in our school library called “How to Eat Fried Worms” by Thomas Rockwell. How could I resist a title like that? I took it home and devoured it (metaphorically speaking) in a single afternoon, wincing in delighted disgust at the account of Billy’s bizarre gastronomical odyssey as he ate his way through fifteen worms in fifteen days to meet the terms of a hideous bet.
I hadn’t thought of that book in years, until this weekend.
Katie ate a worm. On purpose. Actually, she ate several, live and wriggling, while I watched with the same revolted fascination I had previously reserved for Billy.
After all, this is the girl who won’t eat a banana if it has even a single speck of brown on the peel, who inspects each and every french fry for irregularities before consuming it, who meticulously picks every last unacceptable green pea out of the stir fry before eating it. Worms? Really?
We were visiting Paul’s Grandpa and Grandma on Saturday, playing in the yard, and I was picking late cherries off of the cherry trees to nosh on while I read my book. They were delicious. I ate a handful before Grandpa appeared to make sure I knew that they were wormy. “Wormy?” I repeated, as the juice dripped down my chin. Grandpa split open a cherry and shoved aside the pit to show me the tiny white worm swimming around in the sticky pulp.
I stopped chewing.
“It’s no big deal,” Grandpa explained, seeing my expression. He flicked the worm away with one practiced fingernail and thumbed the cherry into his mouth. “We don’t spray the trees with pesticides because we don’t want to poison the birds. You just take out the worms and they taste fine.”
I believed him, I really did, but the mental hurdle proved too high for me to overcome. I’d lost my taste for the cherries, probably due to the disturbing knowledge that I’d already eaten six or eight of the little white worms without realizing it.
Katie was listening to all this with undisguised wonder. She popped open a cherry to see the critter for herself.
“Mom, is eating worms bad for you?”
“They won’t hurt you?”
“No. They’re just a little extra protein, that’s all.”
And before I knew it, she had picked up one of the crawlies and swallowed it down, a thoughtful look on her face, an astonished one on mine.
“Not bad,” she said.
“Tastes sort of sweet,” she said.
“Is it okay if I eat another one?” she asked.
I nodded weakly.
Frankly, I’m still amazed. And a little repulsed. However, I just realized that The Worm Incident has given me new ammunition in the ongoing battle to get my picky eater to try new foods. After all, once you’ve had worm, what could possibly be left on the yucky list?