Have you ever been faced with a new task that you had absolutely NO IDEA how to handle? That happens a lot when we’re in our twenties and thirties – less frequently as we age and acquire a lifetime of experiences (most of which can be transferred). Laugh along with me as I rat on myself and tell a story of my astounding and prideful cluelessness.
of Pitiful Pride
Back in the Dark Ages, when Hubby and I were living in Married Student Housing, we had the extremely good fortune of living just below a couple on the floor above us who were from New Orleans – seafood capital of the world, to have heard them tell it. My connoisseur husband, though he hadn’t a great deal of experience with seafood, had enough to know he loved it. The problem? We were college students on a small campus located on a land-locked northern fringe of The Deep South. Finances and location conspired against us where seafood was concerned.
Enter, our kindly upstairs neighbors, who thoughtfully brought a bag of shrimp back after a home visit and gifted it to us. Hubby was ecstatic. I was not. It wasn’t that I didn’t like shrimp. It was that I had NO idea what to do with it – except eat it. You’ll remember, I’d spent my first 18 years in the middle of Indiana farm country. Not much seafood activity going on there in the 1950s and 1960s. Now, if they’d given me a big ole hunk of pork or beef, I would’ve been marginally better equipped to deal with it. A bag of shrimp? Not so much.
On the night when Hubby had set his taste buds for shrimp, I whipped out my Joy of Cooking cookbook that some optimistic matron had given me at a wedding shower. (The joy of cooking?? Really? Says who?) With gritty determination, I skimmed the Table of Contents and read the 126 pages on seafood preparation. Well! It appeared there was a good deal to be done to shrimp: peeling, deveining, yanking off their little tails, boiling, etc. Whew. Better get started. I slaved over those smelly things for over an hour – after reading for a half hour as I tried to understand how to administer all this “joy.” When Hubby returned from his part-time job, the shrimp and I were ready. Yessss!
The few times my non-gourmet, farm-girl mother had ventured into seafood territory, it was some kind of frozen gunk that she plopped out of a box and into a few inches of hot oil. Having completed my grim work with the Joy of Cooking routine, I figured I could stop reading at that point, and just follow my mother’s example. Pouring a healthy glug-glug of cooking oil into a large pot, I set the burner on high.
While Hubby washed up in the bathroom, I dropped the shrimp into the hot oil, and busied myself setting the rest of the meal on the table, figuring I had plenty of time. By the time I returned to the shrimp, they looked considerably different than they appeared just minutes earlier. Oh well, maybe that’s how they’re supposed to look. Or not.
You remember how it feels when you’ve done everything you thought you were supposed to do, but you still have that queasy feeling something isn’t quite right? That’s the pit-of-the-stomach feeling I had about then. To make myself feel marginally better, I made a bed of paper towels, artistically laid the little dears in neat rows, and covered them with a cozy paper-towel blanket.
Hubby trounced in from the bathroom, saying he’d been waiting all day for this, and wasn’t it cool that we had such generous neighbors, and wouldn’t this be a meal to remember? He was right on all three counts – just not in the way he expected. As he reached out to lift up their paper-towel blanket and cast a drooling, covetous eye on his prey, I stayed his hand and suggested we pray first. I mean, really; that IS the first thing we do at the table (and I figured I’d be needing a little divine protection in a few seconds).
Warning: from here on, the story goes from warm-your-heart goodness to something-that-needs-forgetting. When Hubby pulled back the paper-towel blanket, he found a plateful of black apostrophes – a literary feast, as it were. Being an English major, this made perfect sense to me. While they possessed a certain high-brow, literary classiness, it turns out crispy black apostrophes aren’t all that tasty. Actually – and we know this as fact – they’re inedible.
Hubby was not amused. That old standby, the PBJ, was not what he had been salivating for all day. In fact, he carried a grudge about this unfortunate episode from our early-marriage days for a very long time. Now, he can laugh about it. For many years after The Shrimp Episode? Not so much.
Meanwhile, you’re thinking, “Is there a pay-attention point to this pathetic story?” Well, of course. Why else would I tell such an embarrassing story on myself?
When you don’t know
how to do something
but you know someone who does,
GO ASK THEM HOW TO DO IT.
Don’t check out a book from the library. Don’t buy an e-book from Amazon. Don’t Google it. Don’t read a magazine how-to article. Don’t be proud: ask the person WHO KNOWS for some help – first! That might be all you have to do.
It would’ve been
If I‘d just left Joy on the shelf, swallowed my outsized pride, walked my little white legs up the stairs, and asked my neighbor how to prepare those expensive suckers, I would’ve learned there was nothing to prepare. Not only did cooking oil not belong in the picture, they’d already been boiled in the shell IN WATER. All we had to do was peel them, dip them in cocktail sauce by their tails, and chow down, tossing the tails to the wind. Who cares about the veins?!
I wasted time and effort and perfectly good shrimp who‘d given their lives that we might taste their succulence – all because I wouldn’t ASK for help. I also denied my neighbor the chance to show off her N’Orleans know-how and to feel exceedingly helpful to such an idiot neighbor. Now, is that not the silliest pride story you’ve heard in a long time?
Let’s talk about you
for a minute.
‘Fess up. You just did this not very long ago, didn’t you? Your dad knows how to _______ but instead of asking for his advice, you went to the Internet instead. Granted, the project got a little messy and doesn’t actually function very well but, hey, you did it yourself.
Or maybe you wanted to make _______ like your BFF makes. But instead of calling and gratifying her with a request for her knowledge and recipe, you checked Pinterest for a recipe like hers, complete with step-by-step instructions. Dang. In spite of all that effort, yours didn’t turn out like hers – not at all like hers!
Or maybe you decided to get crafty a few Saturdays ago and create a mini quilt project. Instead of calling Aunt Dot (the family’s in-house quilting expert) for some concise pointers, you Googled “quilting projects.” And – big surprise – by the time you finished your Googling experience, Saturday was pretty much over, and you had no time left to actually DO some work on your project.
Sound familiar? We ALL do this. Most of us are just too self-sufficient for our own good. Pay attention and learn the lesson. ASK FOR HELP from people in the know. Almost always, you’ll:
- get way more practical and useful advice,
- save time,
- be happier with your results, and
- make someone feel better just because they were able to help someone else – you.
This is one of those hard-learned lessons whose scars I still bear to this day. Every time I eat shrimp, I’m reminded of my proud folly. Every time Hubby eats shrimp, well, you know what happens: it’s déjà vu all over again.* Learn from my mistakes!
*Don’t you love Yogi Berra malapropisms?
©2016, Teresa Bennett