Amazing Adventures In Eating!
When was the last time you went out to eat and tried something new? And I’m not talking about a new piled high sandwich or “big salad” on the menu at your usual Friday night haunt.
When was the last time you decided to surprise your family or friends with a new recipe you came across in your favorite magazine or on Pinterest? And not another chicken or pasta dish please! “But that is all my friends and family with eat,” you blurt out in defense. But what you really mean is, “that is all I will eat.”
Food Neophobia: A term often used to describe the fear of eating new or unfamiliar foods.
Perhaps as a child you were forced to try new things and being the little rebel that you were, you decided well before sitting down for the family meal that you were not going to like that broccoli, those mushy peas, and DEFINITELY NOT those Brussels sprouts!
But it’s time to move away from that childhood picky eater mentality, move away from the comfort of “white foods” and begin to explore the great array of colors, textures and aromas that are out there waiting for you. Remember, variety is the spice of life!
Now, we are all familiar with the overly used word “foodie”.
It is a term that seems to be inescapable considering it is thrown around on an almost daily basis in conversations with friends and co-workers, and by the thousands of food bloggers that have sprung up over the last decade all vying for your attention on the internet and in print. And of course let’s not forget about the many television networks and programs devoted to our food-obsessed culture.
But what exactly is a “foodie”? Is it simply a term for someone who likes to eat a lot? (Not to be confused with the word glutton defining one who eats and drinks excessively.) Or is it a word reserved for an aficionado of food and drink? A food connoisseur, if you will.
The word was first used in the title of the 1984 book by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, The Official Foodie Handbook. In a 2007 blog post in The Guardian, Paul Levy attempts to answer the question What is a Foodie?
“What started as a term of mockery shifted ground, as writers found that ‘foodie’ had a certain utility, describing people who, because of age, sex, income and social class, simply did not fit into the category ‘gourmet’, which we insisted had become ‘a rude word’…”
“…It separated out those who ate their lamb overcooked and grey from those whose choice of cheese was goats; it dismissed those who did not care what they ate so long as the wine was served at the correct temperature; and it applied to shopping as well as to eating, to domestic cooks and eaters as well as to those who worked in, profited from or ate in restaurants; to foodstuffs, to brands, to reading matter; and above all, to women as well as to men.”
So I guess this well-worn term could be interpreted to mean one who appreciates good food, the creativity that goes into a dish, the quality of ingredients and of course the presentation. In simple terms, someone who appreciates the dining experience as a whole.
Now anyone who truly delights in innovative culinary experiences knows the excitement that can be brought on by trying new things, and one way to do this is to seek out authentic cuisine from its original source. And I mean original source.
Here in the United States many ethnic restaurants, such as Mexican, Italian, Chinese and Indian, prepare dishes containing hints of authentic flavors, yet they still cater to the American flavor palette. To really understand the flavors of authentic cuisine you must experience them as they were originally intended to be eaten.
Authentic cuisine is not just about flavors, but also about traditions and the many years of history behind them. In other words, cultural foods come with stories of life. Food fills not just our bellies, but also our souls.
Food can trigger emotions and can bring forth mental images of specific moments in our life. It can be a representation of who we are and where we come from.
Take for instance the flavor and traditions attached to Soul Food prepared in the deep south, and how it greatly differs from the Cajun dishes of Louisiana, or a cup of hearty New England clam chowder. Though all quite different, they are each not only uniquely delicious, but are also rooted deep in tradition.
Something else to keep in mind when exploring the differing cultural cuisines is that what is considered completely weird and exceptionally unappetizing to you may be a delicacy to those living in other regions of the world.
For example, fried insects is considered a delicacy and a good source of protein in Asia, while in Scotland they enjoy a traditional dish called haggis in which a sheep’s organs are combined with minced onions, oats, suet and spices and then stuffed in the sheep’s stomach and boiled. Now these food choices may sound strange to us, maybe even a bit gross, but did you know that other cultures find the American staple peanut butter to be an odd indulgence?
Experiencing traditional fare doesn’t necessarily mean you need to dig out your passport and board an international flight. You can find some pretty interesting food choices that are common to particular geographical locations right here in the United States. Andrew Zimmerman, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmerman, has even showcased a number of eateries within the United States offering menu options that will truly challenge your culinary courage. Remember, it’s only “bizarre” if it’s unfamiliar to you.
Scrapple is of Pennsylvania Dutch origin and is usually made from parts of the pig that are generally discarded, such as the head and internal organs. The southern version of scrapple always contains pork liver and cornmeal and is sometimes called “livermush” or “liver pudding.”
Tripe is another delicacy made from the stomach of the cow.
Rocky Mountain Oysters is a western delicacy made from bull, buffalo, pig or even sheep testicles.
Those of you who prefer a more plant-based diet can also find many unusual food choices. Have you ever eaten weeds plucked from your lawn in the springtime? Maybe that sounds a bit out of the ordinary to you.
Dandelions can be eaten in a variety of ways. The greens are often eaten raw in salad or as a garnish. They can also be sautéed like spinach and added to casseroles or pasta dishes. Some people coat the flowers with batter and fry them to make dandelion fritters. The roots of the dandelion have even been used to make wine!
Fiddleheads may not be thought of as an exotic food choice by New Englanders but elsewhere they may seem a bit strange. Fiddleheads are actually the curled fronds of a baby fern and are considered a spring delicacy by many in the Northeast. They are generally boiled or sautéed and added to stir frys, soups or pasta. It is important to note that they must be cooked through as eating them raw can make you sick.
Interested in hearing more about cultural traditions? Check out Online Holistic Health’s Premier Podcast – Crazy Meets Common Sense! How Exotic, Unusual and Even Bizarre Food Can Have a Positive Effect on Your Health.
So getting back to where we started, why not try a few new foods each week? Mix things up a bit and be adventurous. What do you have to lose? Absolutely nothing!
What might you gain?
By expanding your food choices you may also be improving your health! Eating a wide variety of foods provides you with a wide range of nutrients. When adding a new fruit, vegetable, quality protein or healthy whole grain to your diet you are adding additional nutrients that can provide you with important nutrition that can support your immune system and help to ward off disease.