My first taste of squid resulted in an experience even the most sophisticated of gourmands refer to as "hurling."
I was 10. Ever the prankster, my father waited until I ate it before telling me what it was. The squid came right back up along with some of my toes.
The reaction was a surprise considering that in our military family, I had previously eaten without ill effect cultural delicacies such as whale, kangaroo, alligator, snails, beetles, snake, assorted rodents and even hot dogs.
It was probably my imagination. When my father said "squid," I immediately visualized something squirmy and inky, which is how squids appear in their natural state on Capitol Hill.
Although it has the texture of gaskets, eventually I grew to like calamari. It's still not my favorite but I learned not to spit it back out in many of your finer restaurants in the same way I now manage to keep down fry sauce.
But I still won't eat broccoli. I fail to understand why, if the government can criminalize marijuana, nothing has been done about a far more vile weed.
This is the long way of saying that food preference is deeply personal. The human tongue is a computer with millions of receptors that differ in their programming from person to person.
So, while my family likes broccoli, I wouldn't think of getting it on my shoes never mind in my mouth.
While it's understandable that prejudices exist regarding elements of food, it's difficult to believe that in an enlightened society, some of us still discriminate against certain ethnic preparations of food by sticking to hamburgers.
The truth is that most food comes to us in ethnic form. Forget what nutritionists say. In America, the five basic food groups are Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Greek and Indian.
Hang up the phone. I know other food groups exist. We only have room here for the basics. Nobody says, "Hey, let's go get some French." Not if they're talking about food they don't.
Today, a balanced diet consists of three weekly servings of Mexican, although you can reduce this to two if any of the servings contain a sauce spicy enough to pass for a chemical tonsillectomy.
You will need at least four weekly servings of Chinese (Japanese, Thai or Korean), although five would be better. Be sure to load up on anything containing the all-important shrimp nutrient.
Italian is necessary for general health. Experts say at least one big serving a week is fine, but you really should go for two. Any college student will tell you that cold pizza is the real breakfast of champions.
Greek. My favorite because it contains the nonvegetarian potato: sheep. You need a weekly multilamb gyro to help build a strong body. Don't forget the complex baklava supplement.
Indian. The human body can't go for long without kabobs. Want to fight off a cold? Curry. It will also power your lawn mower and exfoliate the inside of your nose.
No one is saying you have to eat squid. But an enjoyable diet means changing the way you see food even if you have to keep your eyes closed while eating it.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley