Ever since I was a kid, I have loved to cook. For my eighth birthday my grandfather took me to a cooking class on French and Mediterranean herbs and out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Shuhei, for sushi and tempura — a tradition we carry on to this day.

Over winter break, my grandfather and I participated in a cooking class at Sur La Table. The theme for the class was “An Evening in Tuscany.”

It probably surprised the five other romantically involved couples when a 70-year-old and his grandson strolled in, clad in cooking aprons and carrying a bottle of Chianti. But what’d we care? We were having fun.

Halfway through the course, the instructor was blending a pesto to dress a faro, tomato and cucumber salad we had just been working on.

She took the class through the steps of toasting pine nuts, how to properly peel garlic bulbs and adding green handfuls of pungent, fresh basil. Then, the instructor began to put the last ingredient into the food processor — a single anchovy in olive oil.

“You can’t put that in there!” A lanky, elderly man with small square glasses shouted.

“Why?” the instructor asked quickly, taken aback and concerned. “Are you allergic to fish?”

“No,” the man said. “I just hate anchovies. They’re absolutely disgusting.”

When we were young our parents could get us to try new foods with a simple “it tastes like chicken” or “it’s daddy’s favorite!” When I was a kid, I hated broccoli. I hated the color, I hated the shape, but I didn’t hate the taste. I had never actually tried it. It wasn’t until the dinosaur phase hit and my mom began calling broccoli “trees” that I decided I liked them.

I had little hope that either strategy would work with this “dippy-doop,” as my grandfather began calling him. Anchovies do not taste like chicken and I was confident the man was not prone to walking around the house like a velociraptor.

“Well,” the instructor said smartly, dropping the anchovy into the dish. “You won’t even know it was an anchovy to begin with. It’s just going to add some much needed saltiness to the dish. You’ll love it if you try!”

The man didn’t try the dish.

I think this is such a wholesome analogy, specifically for college students.

We are at the time in our lives when we should be hungry to learn and be better. The world is at our fingertips. The trouble is, we think we have time.

When I was a kid I would spend all day staring at pictures in National Geographic magazines or watching the Discovery Channel. The pyramids at Cairo, nightlife in Tokyo, long winding streets in Marrakesh. I told myself that I was going to visit every single one of them. My only concern is that I thought I would have
started by now. My mother would say that I have my whole life ahead of me, but all I keep thinking is how much little time I truly have.

Do we really want to spend the rest of our lives like this man — 50-something and still afraid to try a new food?  Don’t let the fear of what you don’t know hold you back from trying all the things you may never know. I know what I want. I want it all.

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