“Bella, what sounds good for dinner?”
Insert total disgust and a heavy side eye here. “No way, Mom. Not that.”
Having failed so many previous sushi coercion attempts, I went straight for the bribe: “Ok, what if I sweetened the offer with extra computer time?”
Ding, ding, ding! “Really?”
“Yeah, but you have to act like it was all your idea and that you’re totally into trying new stuff with us so that Russell will think it’s opposite day and freak out.”
“Mom, you’re so weird.”
“Okay, it’s a deal if there is nothing too gross, like a fish head or…you know. That stuff.”
And we shook on it.
An hour later, we sat at the sushi bar with one very confused Russell. “Bella, you wanted to eat sushi? What happened?”
“Nothing, Russ. I just really respect you and Mom and am trying to give the things you love a shot.”
When Russell stepped away, I leaned over, “That was over the top a little with the respect part and the ‘things we love’ and all that, but other than that, you’re doing an outstanding job.”
“Yeah, when I said that, I knew it was a little corny, but I’m kinda on the spot here, Mom.”
We exchanged a low key high five right as the sushi chef passed a “treat” over the glass for the three of us. I had zero clue what the heck it was other than some kind of fried chip with fish eggs and crab, I think, and a fish part. It was an ambitious beginning for poor Bell, who forced the fakest half-smile ever as she bit into half of the whatever-it-was. Then came the involuntary shiver. And the partial gag. And the hilarious: “Mmmm [gag], that was…what was that? That’s not fish egg, is it?”
Shock, shock, horror, horror. Shock, Shock, horror.
Russell told her it was Japanese Berry.
She leaned behind Russell and silently mouthed toward me, “Do I have to eat the rest of that stuff?” To which I gladly mouthed back, “No, no, that was awesome. Good job.” Man, whatever she wanted extra computer time for must’ve been important.
When the chef finished Bella’s sushi virgin order, the California roll, she looked panicked.
All the chefs were staring at her, making it even easier. I was proud, though, as Bella soldiered through this strange new food.
“What is this one?”
Blank stare and determination. “Okay.” Swallow. Water. More water. More blank staring. This was like when Dad used to drag me to pipe organ concerts. Poor Bella.
Noting Bell’s hesitation, the chef slipped her a tray of fried fish, trying to pass it off as the beloved children’s delicacy: le fishstick.
“Mmmm, now this is not bad! For real, Russ. What do you think?”
“Oh, this is delicious, Bella.”
“You know that’s baby harp seal, right?”
Bella started to spit it out on her tray and gagged abdominally. It took a few minutes to convince her Russell was joking, but even longer for the chefs and the people surrounding us to quit laughing. Nevertheless, Bella ate the entire serving of “harp seal”.
At the end of the meal, our server brought apples dipped in chocolate syrup, and I could tell my kid was scared there was going to be a fish eyeball or something stuck inside. Russell waited until she’d eaten them all to tell her it was “shark heart,” but it backfired with a barrage of irritated eyerolling.
Tomorrow The Bell gets her well-deserved extra computer time…and macaroni and cheese.
And that nerd Russell? Maybe I’ll make him some of this: