Last Wednesday, I ate a tomato. While this may not sound like such a momentous event, I am typically repulsed by everything about the vegetable. Taste, texture, smell, everything. Somehow though, I was able to eat it on toast with buffalo mozzarella without a problem for the first time in my life.
I enjoyed this flavorful moment last week when I got the opportunity to participate in “Lights Out Miami Beach,” an event where patrons enjoyed a meal blindfolded to promote disability awareness, as part of the larger Ability Explosion week of events.
I started off my night by visiting each of the 11 restaurants with the two organizers of the event, Mikey Wiseman and Irene D’Auria, who graciously invited me along. The weather was perfect on South Beach and, with the help of Swoop Miami, a free shuttle service, we spent the night driving around in an open electric car.
We finally reached Quattro on Lincoln Road at 10:30 p.m., not just famished, but craving food after the nine other restaurants had teased us with their dishes. We sat down to the table and were given blindfolds. I put mine on after taking my first sip of water, and began taking everything in.
A few minutes in, I half-noticed a smell wafting up to my nose. It was not until someone mentioned that we had bread on the table that I realized where it was coming from. I then asked for the olive oil and vinegar. Several people at the table were not using blindfolds and had to verbally guide the rest of us to the glass bottles. We then proceeded to pour the quick-flowing liquids onto our plates without spilling them. Someone joked that I had a baseball-sized stain of the mix in front of me. As it turns out, it was not a joke.
The appetizers arrived, and I had my first real life-changing experience of the night by eating that bread with cheese and tomatoes. In a weird way, it made me realize just how much we judge things based on their appearances.
My next real shock was having to eat with my hands. I already am a messy eater as it is, so using just my fork while not being able to see was completely out of the question. I ended up doing exactly what a man at another restaraunt had done and pushing my food onto my fork. For some things, I just used my hands (and not just finger food- raviolis, potatoes and all sorts of meats). It dawned on me just how impressive it is for the blind to eat with cutlery. I am still in awe.
My final course was a different kind of surprise. After fighting to fork whatever it was in front of me, I finally reached my mouth, expecting cake or hard ice cream. Instead, my tongue was met with a dry, solid ball: I was eating a donut with a fork.
While the different Nutella, jelly and cream-filled donuts were a nice end to the night, I somehow could not get over that initial shock. I am pretty sure there was some deeper lesson to be learned from it, some more about preconceived notions, but I just keep thinking about how I am still craving that chocolate ice cream.
My night was, all in all, an incredible experience. I think Wiseman summed it up pretty nicely when he said, “Welcome to outside your comfort zone.”
Margaux Herrera may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.