1. An Unknown Quantity of Pennies, 1986: My older sister and I are a year and a half apart. So the age at which she was ably walking on her own, I was in a hand-crank baby swing. As the story goes, my mom had stepped out of the room to answer the phone and returned to my sister feeding me from a jar of change in time with the swing—every time I came forward, she'd place another penny in my mouth. My mom didn't worry too much because, as she says, "You didn't jingle, so we assumed you'd be all right."
2. Liver, 1992: My mom did an excellent job of making sure that my sister and I didn't grow up to be picky eaters. Indeed, as an adult I maintain that I'll try anything that isn't brains. As kids, though, she sometimes had to resort to more creative methods. After we flat-out refused the liver and onions on our plates, she put it in a blender, liquefied it, fried it, and served it to us as "Pancake Meat." Which, apparently, we loved and requested often.
3. Horsemeat, 1999: My middle school French Club went to Quebec City for the Winter Carnival, and somewhere between the snow sculptures and ice skating, I ordered a burger with a funny sounding name. What I understood to be a type of cheese my French teacher later informed me meant "ground horse." Delicious, though I wonder how I'd feel if I had ever wanted a pony. Also, not the last time I'd be tripped up by French words.
4. Extremely Cheap Tequila, 2005: The only thing worse than shitty tequila is unexpected shitty tequila. Somewhere deep in the 30s of a power hour, my shotglass of beer was replaced by a shot of below-the-bottom-shelf-quality tequila. I drank it, but got some accidental revenge on that prankster by horking in his bathtub somewhere in the 40s.
5. A Crab Shell, 2007: At a sleazy-chic diner with my sister, I only noticed that something was wrong when she pointed out that cream of crab soup usually isn't crunchy.
6. Brains, 2010: Hey, remember above when I said I'd try anything that isn't brains? That was shot to hell at a fancy restaurant in Baltimore on Christmas Eve, when my sister (who, I am realizing, is a disturbingly prominent figure in this list) ordered the cervelle de veau and I, unknowingly, stole a forkful then, on the way out, asked the waiter what 'cervelle' meant. Brains. All brains. Unavoidably brains. Couldn't even pretend I had eaten a gland. Brains.
(Items that did not make this list include: a cicada, an unknown quantity of pot-laced butter before a geography class, a postage stamp and the contents of at least three fortune cookies.)
Victoria Johnson is a cartographer and this is her Tumblr.
Photo by Pia Gaarslev, via Wikimedia Commons.