It was our first meal in Catania. Our first authentic taste of Italia, of Sicilia, of Europe and the Mediterranean in general, and our appetites applauded with joy for dinner. I dreamt of this moment for many years– being in the motherland, her warmth, her sights, her dining. Warmth in Sicily was identical of that of Florida or California, but more intense, more pompous and ecstatic. Her sights overwhelmed the mind and soul while simultaneously putting them at peace– I close my eyes and am transformed back to our visit to Taormina, to Siracusa, to seeing the giant Mount Etna in the distance. Today would be Palermo, then on to Agrigento to see the Valle dei Templi, an instense journey leading to the exhausting end of its perfect beginning.
Donnie and I looked at the food before us puzzled. It reeks, I think to myself. It looks divine, but smells ghastly.
“Honey, I think there’s something wrong with the food,” I mutter, trying to spin my fork in whatever I’m preparing to insert into my mouth.
“Don’t be ridiculous, darling,” he laughs. “It’s just fish.”
I throw my fork to the side, seething with disgust. Fish? How I hate fish! I was never a fan. Everytime I saw it at Christmas, walked by it in the aisle in A&P, saw one staring at me at the New York Aquarium, I thought of only one thing– the smell. Why? Because it smells like something I…dare not say. I dare not mention.
“Maria, it’s not going to hurt you, and you’d be insulting our hosts if you didn’t eat.”
“Well, they insult me by serving it! I specially mentioned no fish whatsoever.”
“Honey, we’re on an island. What do they eat on islands?”
“Exactly. Try it, I’m sure it’ll do you good.”
I gaze down fearing the gag reflex I’m about to have as soon as I taste this gull. Preparing for the doom that is about to come to my mouth and stomach, I cross myself when I see the next course is already being served– pasta.
How adorable it looked! Pink sauce, maybe it’s like a penne ala vodka. Donnie noticed the joy flowing from my smile, and I raised my glass to finally toast the first night.
“To us…to Sicily…to my motherland!”
After toasting our wine, I took a big bite of my food….ewwww! I’m coughing all at once, grabbing the nearest napkin I can. At first, only the few bits I ate came out before vomit the menace followed. I didn’t care that I was embarrassing myself or my husband on our honeymoon. Screw this, I don’t care what people say, I felt like I just ate a part of myself.
Our waiter comes up, offering in Italian if everything is alright.
“Excuse us,” Donnie replies. “My wife, fish upsets her stomach.”
“Ah, yes, Signore, I’m seen it many times with outsiders,” he beams. “The fish, the taste is too strong, too foreign, unless their digestion already favors the sea. We have a joke here in Sicily about the fish. It’s very funny. A blind man walks by the docks to the fishermen. He calls, ‘good morning, ladies’ before waltzing off.”
Donnie’s face explodes, and he can hardly contain himself. The waiter at first joins in before awkwardly leaving us.
“Maria, oh my God Maria, I get it now! I get it now!”
“It’s about time you know why I hate fucking fish.”
via Daily Prompt: Fish