Money is a wonderful motivatior. An evil, corrupting, soul-stealing motivator. We all got up at the crack of dawn this morning and spent the entire day in the same 2 square foot area, didn’t we? And the older you get, the more prone you become to the horrific influence of filthy lucre. I learned this in practice when I was around eleven years old – as I went from staunch refusal, to willing participation, in a little under a year. Hold on and let me explain… this doesn’t involve digital rape of any kind. Just Greek food. And yes, I know the two are usually synonymous.
Red Snappers are a type of fish found in various areas all over the world. They’re a very popular food source due to their unique texture and ample size, (God if I had a nickel…) and are treated as endangered in countries that care. They’re huge – the largest ever caught was over 50 pounds and they’re the ugliest form of aquatic life this side of the giant squid. Or Michael Moore in a Speedo.
The kid holding the red snapper isn’t me, so I attached a sweet shot from Sears Portrait Studio in the hopes you’ll be able to picture what I looked like circa the tale I’m about to tell. Alternately, you can imagine the kid holding the red snapper at about 15 pounds heavier and wearing nothing but Star Wars Underoos, and you’ve pretty much got it nailed. My Mom, Dad, Sister and our old family friend Terry Jackson were supping at the best Greek restaurant in Montreal – Molivos. I always loved it when we’d go out for Greek, because my seafood aversion was in full swing by 1985 and there were always plenty of other things on the menu. My parents would be happy because of the plethora of seafood available, and I’d be in fried cheese/hummous heaven.
About 3 bottles of Kourtaki into the meal, my Dad and Terry began to pick on me. A ginormous red snapper had just arrived at the table, and they started berating me for not wanting to try any. As I stared into the cloudy, dead eyes of the steaming snapper Terry must have noticed a visible shudder of revulsion. “You’re such a little wimp. Try one bite.” To which my father added “Don’t waste your breath on the little chicken. More for us.” Terry wouldn’t give up, and pretty soon he had a forkful stabbing towards my face. “You couldn’t PAY me to eat that ugly thing!” I whelped. Terry looked at my father and a most treacherous smile began to creep across both of their faces. Terry produced $20 and my father quickly matched it. $40 is a fortune to an eleven-year-old kid, a huge score, and suddenly the small nibble of white meat didn’t look all that terrible. “OK!” I recanted and reached for the fork.
“Oh no, kiddo. It ain’t gonna be that easy if this much money is involved.” They both simultaneously surveyed the aquatic corpse. “You’re going to have to eat… the eyes!” My mother and sister gasped in horror as my dreams of a lifetime supply of Popeye Candy Cigarettes and Fun Dip came to an abrupt halt. The red snapper’s dead eyes resembled poached eggs, and I felt saganaki start sloshing around in my stomach as I tried to imagine eating them. I curtly told my antagonizers to forget it, and decided I’d rather put up with their taunts for the rest of the evening.
But a child’s motivations invariably change as they get older. When I next saw Terry about 9 months later, he was visiting us at our home on Springhill Drive in Lorne Park, Mississauga – and I had a new friend. The just introduced Nintendo Entertainment System. The retsina was again flowing, and I could see a red snapper smoking on the BBQ. I waited until after dinner (until they were good and drunk) and then casually mentioned the Montreal incident. “I’ve really regretted not taking you guys up on that bet. But I could have never eaten those gross eyes.” Terry fell right into my trap. “David, let’s make it $50. Gordo – cough it up“. Next thing I knew, there were five $20 bills fanned out on the dining room table in front of me. I looked up, smiled, and I’m pretty sure my father flashed a “we’ve just been hustled” look momentarily over his face. I grabbed a butter knife and began scooping the gelatinous white blobs out of their sockets.
Laid out side-by-side on a coffee saucer, they didn’t look quite as threatening. I was followed over to the kitchen sink by Terry, my father and about 4 other dinner guests. I filled the biggest glass we had with water and grabbed the first eye. It came apart in my hand, and I saw to my dismay that while the exterior was eggish, the core was a rock hard little marble. I slapped a greasy hand over my mouth, swallowed, gagged and then chugged the water. The second eye went down in much the same fashion. I turned around triumphantly to a series of pale faces – but mine was covered in an enormous smile. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out was coming out the next week.