by Charlie Dean
The worst thing I ever tasted was a noxious cocktail of mayonnaise and hot-sauce. It was probably a dare put together by some of my friends, though I can’t remember. I stood at the sink for fifteen minutes, trying to wash the taste out of my mouth. So a rotten pistachio was not the worst thing I’ve ever tasted, but it’s what I’m writing about here.
I was sitting on my bed with my laptop the morning it happened. Waiting for plans, I was bored and feeling hungry, so I went downstairs to check the pantry. I was disinterested in wheat thins, we had run out of cookies, and the fruit was too far away, so I decided to grab a Wonderful brand bag of pistachios. This seemed like a good decision at the time; I’ve always liked the taste of pistachios, and the shells are fun to remove. I returned to my bed with my laptop in hand.
It’s an interesting experience, trying to eat pistachios in bed. They’re flakier that I remembered, that’s for sure. I always imagine eating a pistachio as clean and satisfying: cracking open a shell into two congruent waste pieces, then eating the easy green innards. In reality, it’s quite a grungy experience. Brownish-green flakes quickly dirtied my bed. The black IKEA trashcan was unequipped for such frequent and close range use, and many of the shells I tried to toss into the can landed on the floor, instead. While this seemed like an inconvenience at the time, it would quickly pale in comparison to what was about to happen.
After about twenty pistachios and two YouTube videos, I picked up the pistachio I’ll never forget. It didn’t look strange at all, although I’m not sure I even looked at it. I cracked open the shell and tossed it into my mouth. The instant I bit down, I knew something was wrong. A terrible, dead, rotten taste filled my mouth. I leaned over to the trashcan and vigorously spit out the horrid substance. Keeping my mouth open as to not swallow any tainted saliva, I ran to the bathroom to flush out my mouth. The YouTube video was still playing; I didn’t think to pause it.
A frantic preliminary rinse of the tongue was required to remove any stray bits of the pistachio. Then, I swished water around my mouth three times to remove residual flavor. Only then did I allow a brief diagnostic taste of my mouth to determine any additional necessary cleaning steps. I quickly determined I needed to rinse and spit once more. After a few additional gags, I was fit to return to my room.
Still breathing heavily, I debated whether to continue the pistachios. The black and green bag still lay open on top of my bed, but was it safe to keep on eating? What if I got another rotten one? Was the rotten one even safe to eat? After much inner turmoil, however, I determined my taste for pistachios was greater than the fear of another rancid one, so I continued eating. I didn’t eat any more rotten pistachios that day, but I couldn’t have consumed more than half a dozen pistachios after the awful incident. They just weren’t the same.
A few days later, I googled “rotten pistachio,” out of curiosity for others’ experiences. I found some forum posts discussing the horrors of unknowingly consuming one during a pistachio session, and several questions about the health concerns involved with the various molds that grow on the nut. I wasn’t particularly worried, as I didn’t think one rotten nut was enough to make me sick, but one common theme started to horrify me: many wrote of experiences where a dead roach or larva was found inside the shells. The brown color made it hard to differentiate from a regular pistachio. This problem was particularly common in the Wonderful brand. I still find myself lying awake at night, trying to convince myself that what I ate was no more than a bad nut and not an insect. How would the roach even get in between those shells? What kind of review process let’s a bug get through? I’ve dry heaved several times just thinking about it.
To this day, I still find myself awakening in a cold sweat, having dreamed of being forced to eat a bowl of rotten pistachios at gunpoint. I softly cried myself back to sleep most nights. On one occasion, I found the thought of returning to sleep and having the nightmare again unbearable. I walked downstairs to the pantry, where I found a fresh, unopened bag of Wonderful pistachios. Unable to eat the things again after my harrowing experience, they had been solely consumed by the rest of my family. Sobbing in an angry, miserable fervor, I grabbed the pistachios and hurled them at the ground. I stomped on the bag, popping it open and sending the cursed nuts flying across my kitchen floor. With one last dramatic cry, I collapsed to the ground and curled up into a ball. I awoke the next morning feeling rejuvenated, and I haven’t had the nightmare since. While this wasn’t the worse thing I ever ate, it was pretty darn close.
Charlie Dean is a Freshman Stage Design and Technology student. Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share? Want to read more stories like this? Go to our homepage to find and share more great stories from the students of the Baltimore School for the Arts.