As a child, I used to like some oddball ingredients. Chicken feet, beef tripe, pig ears, and bologna were some of my favorite foods. But perhaps my most eccentric penchant growing up was for fish eyes. While my brother dove in for the cheeks, I preferred to stab my chopsticks right in the bulls-eye of the socket and fish out the goopy optical orb. I would stick the whole thing in my mouth, ingest it by some combination of sucking and chewing, and conclude by letting a cleanly polished, perfectly white, perfectly spherical eyeball drop onto my plate. If it weren’t for my parents, who would often save me one cheek in the spirit of fairness, I might would never have known the glories of those precious morsels of meat. I don’t remember when I stopped eating fish eyes–probably around the time I started noticing what I wore and who I hung out with–but sadly, I can no longer bring one anywhere near my mouth. I’ve developed a strong textural dislike of anything resembling slime, and fish eyes are definitely slimy–surprisingly meaty, but slimy nonetheless.
I’m a little sad because I don’t fancy these foods the way I used to. I do still like munching on them on occasion, but as much for the whiff of nolstagia as for the actual pleasure of eating them. However, they’ve evolved from simply foodstuffs into a potential source of creative inspiration for me as an aspiring chef. Artistically, being a chef is about creating food that enables me to define and express myself, and a big part of that process is reincarnating food from my past. Not just re-creating it, but bringing it back to life, perhaps in a different form or dress, and preserving the essence of what it was. Creation as preservation: self-preservation.