Well Shut My Mouth!

A Mother’s Secret Recipe for Keeping Quiet

Quick. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term "acquired taste”? Raw oysters? Bleu cheese? Sardines? According to Wikipedia, acquiring a taste usually involves a repeated deliberate effort to enjoy a food or beverage that was not enjoyed the first (or second, or sometimes even tenth) time it was tried. Boy does that description ever fit the newest item on my list – Bitten Tongue!

The very first time I came in contact with this odd little delicacy was during the planning of my daughter’s wedding. We were trying on veils when the sales lady asked Lauren how she wanted to wear her hair, to which she replied, "Down.” Even though I disagreed, I knew it should be her decision, so I took a deep breath and bravely gave Bitten Tongue a try. I absolutely hated it, and quickly spit it out. "No, Sweetheart” I blurted out, "You need to wear your hair up. God gave you that lovely Audrey Hepburn neck and you should show it off!”

Not surprisingly, because of the foul taste it had left in my mouth, I didn’t go near Bitten Tongue again for quite a while. In fact, Lauren and Daniel had been married several weeks before my next encounter with it. I flew in to spend a weekend with them in their cozy little apartment, and right off the bat I noticed she was storing her potatoes in plastic produce bags. I was just about to point out that the trapped moisture would cause them to mildew, but then I stopped and asked myself how I’d have felt if my mother had said something as petty as this when I was a brand new "lady of the manor.” Would I have appreciated the sensible tip, or would it have sounded like criticism? The answer was so obvious that I willed myself to try Bitten Tongue for the second time. Oddly enough, it didn’t taste nearly as awful as I remembered, and the remark about the potatoes went unspoken.

Over the next couple of years I really worked at that "repeated deliberate effort” to learn to like Bitten Tongue, but believe me it wasn’t always easy – like the time Lauren picked out a wall color I wasn’t crazy about, or the fact that she prefers to make her chicken spaghetti without celery and onions. What I discovered in the process was that each time I tried Bitten Tongue I was able to tolerate the flavor a little more, until I reached a point where I could honestly say I enjoyed the taste. I even began to speculate: Was there a market for a Bitten Tongue Cookbook, complete with recipes and serving suggestions? The possibilities seemed endless.

But just as I was envisioning a book signing tour and my own show on the Food Network, something happened that caused me to suffer a serious setback. I became a grandmother! Overnight my passion for Bitten Tongue went right out the window and the next thing I knew I was spouting enough baby care dos and don’ts to put Dr. Spock to shame. Never mind that my daughter was handling her new role (and her new son) splendidly on her own, I was the expert. No "onesie” was too small, no diaper change too big for me to weigh in on, and for the first two whole weeks of Aidan’s life, that’s all I did!

Then it caught up with me. I remember it was on an afternoon when my grandson was unusually fussy. We’d had nonstop visitors for three days, and the poor little guy had been passed around like a peace pipe. I knew exactly what that baby needed was to be put down in his crib and left alone for a while, and I felt duty-bound to point it out. In my most authoritative "Mother Knows Best” voice I began, "You know, Lauren...” But at just that moment I caught sight of a single tear welling up in my daughter’s eye. It was saying "Who is the real Mommy here?”

Suddenly I realized what my "expertise” really sounded like, and the truth was almost more than I could bear. I never finished my proclamation. Instead I softly asked her, "What do you think Aidan’s trying to tell you?”

"That he just wants me to hold him,” she sniffed.

I smiled and nodded. And as I watched her sitting there on the sofa happily snuggling her baby boy I thought to myself, "Bitten Tongue has never tasted so good!”

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