I looked through different eyes at what I tasted with the same tongue.
Unsuspectingly, I dove into a plate of salt-fish and rice given to me by my Grandma. I was so hungry and so excited to be eating real seafood again that I’d resolved to eat everything off the plate, even the vegetables (getting older apparently makes vegetables more tolerable, even good sometimes). I’d never seen these little green things before that were now in my plate, but I ate them anyway. Of course, infused with the red beans, fresh tomatoes and sauce, flavorful beans and rice and the delicate but welcome surprises of salt-fish chunks, the first bites were delicious.
But then I felt it. The slime, the slippery, crept into my head, my senses, my being: this was Okra. My heart sank. My joy dropped (and so did my fork). I stared at the green slices in disbelief, having flashbacks to that long night at the table, struggling to swallow the slugs that my Grandma called “okra”. It was a horrid, whining, chair squirming memory. I thought I’d never encounter Okra again. I was too big to be tricked into that now, I thought.
I sulked over to find her and ask her, already feeling the betrayal. These little green slices weren’t the Okra I knew. I knew it as a whole (as one collective obese peapod). “Grandma, what are these,” I asked, already defeated. She looked at the plate and smiled, “It’s Okra!” She must have also remembered my horrid encounter. They tricked me, her and the Okra together. And even though I thought the okra slices weren’t bad until my recognition, I removed every piece from my plate. They were and always would be revolting.
I took these photos to become re-acquainted, so that a mishap such as this would never happen again.
Maybe that’s a little dramatic. But that’s how it felt. This experience conjured up the dramatic and imaginative thoughts and experiences of my childhood self, and I could think of it in no other way. These photos attempt to show the “horrid vegetable” to me in a new light. But though I admire their new appearance, I can’t bring myself to re-invent my conceptions of the subject. With each picture that becomes clearer and closer, I still feel revulsion. Even though photography allows me to capture my new perception, it still serves a just as powerful purpose of conjuring past feelings. A photograph does not have to capture the old moment to possess this power; it can also capture old memories through new methods of vision.