Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up around water, or more specifically, the ocean.

Or it could’ve been because I watched Pretty Woman too many times in high school and remember Julia Roberts’ character referring to sea creatures as “slippery little suckers.”

But whatever the reason, Wisconsin’s lack of salty ocean breeze or that unfortunate onscreen incident with the escargot, I used to be firmly in the “seafood is gross” camp. Aside from a piece of deep-fried cod with a gallon of tartar sauce or the pan-fried walleye (I’m sensing a theme here, frying something cure all that ails, apparently) my Mom would whip up right after my Dad caught them, I wouldn’t dream of eating anything “fishy.”

And then I went to California.

I remember that afternoon with great fondness. I was on a press junket, and we had some free time before the film screening, so my boyfriend (now my hubby), a pal of his from high school who happened to live in Los Angeles, and I went to lunch. It was one of those perfect California days, 75 degrees, sunny (naturally) and not a cloud in the sky. There was a slight breeze that smelled of ocean, and I was sporting my favorite over-sized sunglasses. All in all, a marvelous day, and when eating alfresco is involved, well, even better.

After perusing the appetizers, however, the boys were dead-set on ordering the fried calamari. Dun, dun, dun…

“What exactly are those?” I wondered as I debated what to order for lunch. It was an Italian restaurant, so everything looked good.

“Fried squid,” Will said. “They’re delicious.” His friend nodded with equal enthusiasm.

To be totally honest, I couldn’t think of anything that sounded worse. Fishy, rubbery squid, tentacles and all, battered and served with marinara sauce? In the words of Jimmy Fallon’s teenage girl alter ego “EWWW!”

But I knew I couldn’t officially “knock ’em ’til I tried ’em,” and I didn’t want to look like a total coward in front of the cutest guy on Planet Earth, so I reluctantly picked one up, dipped it in the spicy tomato sauce and was instantly BOWLED OVER. It wasn’t ewww in the least. They were tender, well-seasoned and absolutely addictive. I ate approximately 8,000 more.

Thanks to my guy and my time in California, calamari was my official gateway to absolutely falling in love with seafood. I couldn’t imagine a life now without shrimp. Or lobster. Fish tacos. Clams. Mussels. Scallops. Yes, even oysters. I love them all, fried or unfried (well, except salmon…I’ve tried and tried and tried, and I just can’t).

You know how people in Paris say they find whatever looks good at the market, and it winds up on the dinner table? I was one of those people today. After spotting some beautiful mussels on sale, I decided to give them a whirl at home this afternoon and was beyond thrilled with the results. Not only was it one of the fastest homemade lunches on record, but it was incredibly easy and flavorful with a broth perfect for dipping in rosemary bread.

Rather than typing the recipe below, I’ll just send you straight to where I found it. I used an inexpensive Greek white wine called “Santorini” that was incredible in this dish. I also substituted basil for parsley because that’s what I had on hand and finished the dish with just a splash of cream which, of course, makes everything better like its pal butter.

Try it. I dare you. Plus, you’ll save about a zillion dollars because ordering it in a restaurant is like three to four times more than it costs to make at home.