A dreadful thing happened to me the other day. I had to eat haggis.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, which is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with the heart, liver and lungs, minced with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt. Mmm, delicious, I hear you cry.
My flatmate was cooking, and she asked if I wanted to have some with her, to which I replied that it was probably too way-out for me – she knows about my pickiness. But I just don’t think that non-picky eaters can really understand. Because she said “oh, but you will try some?” Now, I don’t know what happened, but I found myself agreeing. I didn’t want her to be offended. And I didn’t want to seem like quite the freak that I actually am. So I said I would try a tiny bit.
Now, to me, trying a tiny bit means just that. A homeopathic amount. An ant’s mouthful. But to my horror, I realised I had given her the go-ahead to serve me an actual portion, albeit a small one.
I was somewhat relieved, or reassured to see what it actually looked like on the plate, which was mince. It just looked like very finely minced mince, except with black bits and white bits in it.
So what I did, was I told myself “it’s just mince, it’s just mince, just a different type of mince”. Because I can eat mince, you see. And although I’d never actually eat oatmeal, the idea of it just seems very benign. I made sure I kept any thoughts about the source of the mince right out of my head. It took quite an effort, but in this way, I managed to actually eat it. I did feel quite upset afterwards. It’s not like it wasn’t an ordeal or anything. But I managed it all without gagging. It’s actually quite tasty. Wouldn’t do it again though. And I certainly couldn’t do it without plenty of potato to help it down.
What I find with trying new things, is if I can convince myself that the thing is similar enough to something I already can eat, then I might find that it’s do-able. Even if the thing is actually quite different. First time I saw Red Leicester, when I was about 6, I didn’t think I’d be able to eat it. But then it occurred to me that in all respects apart from colour, it’s just like Cheddar. And it worked. I even managed the same trick as an adult when confronted with Brie at someone’s house. Now I know there’s a world of difference between Brie and Cheddar, but by focussing on the similarities, and just thinking of it as a strongly-tasting, softer version of Cheddar, I managed it quite fine. In fact, I rather like it. I’ve even moved on to be able to eat Philadelphia cream cheese in the last year or so, using the same trick. Couldn’t eat it in quantity yet, but it’s progress.