Go see the world, they said. Eat amazing food, they said. Don’t get taken, they said.
Yes, the semester I studied abroad unfortunately coincided with Liam Neeson’s hit movie “Taken.” Rest assured, I was not taken, but something was: my dignity.
I, Carrie Taylor, was forced to eat cat food.
Okay, technically it wasn’t cat food, but before we go further, know that studying abroad will benefit your child in ways neither of you can anticipate. It was an educational and eye-opening experience for me, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Now, back to cat food.
Each student was assigned a Spanish host family complete with a sweet mom-for-the-semester. She cooked for me, cleaned for me and even pinched my butt and called me “gordita” when I ate an entire bag of popcorn.
My pseudo mom actually bore quite a resemblance to my real mom, in that our dinners lacked home-cooked Spanish flavors and instead leaned heavily on the pre-packaged. We’re talking microwave hot dogs with rice and ketchup.
But one day, my Mamá made us french fries! I was in heaven. I took my seat at the table with a giant, fry-eating grin.
As we served ourselves, I grabbed a fry and took a bite. Then I froze. The room became a blur. Noises muffled. Time slowed. When my teeth bit down, I met not warm, potato-y goodness, but a spine.
What kind of potato has a spine, you ask? NO KIND OF POTATO. I had, in some cruel twist, bitten into a fried sardine.
I glanced in horror to see if my madre had noticed her mistake and saw her nibbling her own sardine like a chicken wing. Then she casually handed a sardine-wing-fry to the family cat, who happily munched away.
I cried myself to sleep that night, and next day treated myself to french fry therapy at McDonald’s. (Yes, parents: you can assure your picky eater that all European countries have a McDonald’s, with real french fries.)
Carrie Taylor is a native Texan and mother of one.