Today I gave one of my students, Em, the first black olive she had ever eaten. She looked at it skeptically, poked it with her finger, and queried, “What is this?” She noticed her friends eating them off the tips of their fingers. She tried hers on for size and beamed delightedly when it fit. One of her friends urged, “Taste it!” Em’s frown returned. “Just a little taste,” she said, then delicately nipped the tiniest bite off the olive.
Immediately her tongue popped back out of her mouth with the smudge of olive on it. The sight was met by a chorus of “Ewww!” from the other girls at the table. The tongue and the olive disappeared back inside Em’s mouth. Her face made the most marvelous contortions as she choked down that speck of olive.
Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at the olive still on the end of her finger. Slowly, she raised it to her lips. I said, “Em, did you like that olive?” She replied, very politely, “I found it a bit unusual.” Again she moved the olive toward her mouth. I said, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.”
Em said, “That wouldn’t be polite. I have to eat it.” I responded, “No, Em, you don’t. I gave it to you and I say if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it. My feelings won’t be hurt.”
Em stared at me wide-eyed. She looked at the olive. She looked at me. “Really?” She asked. I pointed at the garbage can. “Throw the olive away,” I ordered.
Em effusively exclaimed, “Oh thank you! That really is nasty, you know!” She tossed the olive and scrubbed her tongue with the cuff of her shirt. “How can you people eat those things?” she demanded. We just wiggled our olive covered fingers and giggled.