Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Open Your Mind Part 2

I never really understood people who are picky eaters.

I've cooked for and had dinner with people who have flat out refused to taste some particular dish that they thought they wouldn't like. Now, its OK not to like something. But you've got to at least try it. Otherwise you could talk yourself out of missing something you might just end up loving.

While I eat just about anything, there are some things that I don't like. The raw pulp of tomato, can't stand the stuff, super oily anchovies, not so much, and oddly, I'm not a fan of olives. But you know what, I've tried them all, many times over. If someone says “Wow, this is fantastic, you have to try it” and it contains something I may not be fond of, I try it. Usually I don't care for it, but in some cases I'm surprised. Like the time I was served an heirloom tomato salad at an Italian restaurant that I frequent. I didn't think I'd like it, but someone told me it was amazing, so I tried it. It was spectacular. The perfect balance of basil, peppery olive oil and garden fresh heirloom tomatoes. And if I had said “No I don't want that” I'd have missed out on something really amazing.

So where do I get this idea that I have to try it? Well, when I was growing up we weren't given the option of saying no at the table. If mom was making it, we were eating it. Period. You see, I grew up in a middle class house. My dad worked for the city and my mom was a secretary. Money must have been tight, but every night we sat down to dinner together and ate. And when mom cooked it, I was eating it. Like it or not. While I love broccoli and cauliflower now, I hated them as a kid. We ate a lot of that stuff back then.

There was the one time I got my revenge though. It was St. Patrick's day, and even though we are a Polish family, mom always made corned beef and boiled cabbage on St. Paddy's day. So there I was, a stubborn 6 year old. I ate my corned beef and boiled potatoes, but that sulphery smelling quarter head of boiled cabbage sat there on my plate, staring me in the face. I was told that I was not leaving the table until I ate my cabbage. I was upset and crying. Thowing a bit of a fit actually. Long after my sister had been excused from the table because she had cleaned her plate, and after much insistence from my parents, I knew I didn't have a choice. I wasn't happy about it but I dug in. After the second bite though, my stomach lurched, I gagged and that damned cabbage, along with a good portion of my dinner ended up back on the plate, and the table, and the floor. Needless to say, I was excused.

Now I'm not saying we should make ourselves puke trying new foods, but we should have an open mind about things we've never tried.

Oddly, a lot of the food we hated as kids was usually because of improper cooking. I don't know many kids who liked brussel sprouts. Usually they came from a can and were boiled to a disgusting consistency. I made dinner for some family a while back and served  roasted brussel sprouts. I found them at the farmers market that morning, still on the stalk. I coated them with good olive oil and a bit of sea salt and popped them in the oven. They were gorgeous. A few people declined, but after a bit of pressure from me they gave them a shot. You should have seen the looks of surprise in their eyes. They were stunned that something that could taste so horrible, but when prepared well, could taste so amazing. So when you say you don't like something it just might be that you've never had it propperly prepared.  But you won't know until you try.

Have you ever had bone marrow? It's actually quite trendy now, but when I was a kid you never saw it in a restaurant. At home we used to fight over who would get the precious bit of marrow from that little bone in the center of the round steak. If you haven't had it you've got to try it. Sure it looks like a big gelatinous snot, but spread it on toasted bread with a bit of parsley, capers and shallot and WOW! It's like butter on crack.

When it comes to trying something new, that I've never had before, I dig right in and you should too. You might find out you really like something and realize you've been missing out your entire life. For instance, imagine the first guy to ever eat a lobster. He must have though to himself “Gee, that big bug over there looks pretty gross. But I'm hungry. I already know that the sand doesn't taste very good, let alone how my bowels reacted to it, so maybe I'll eat the big, gross looking sea bug over there.”

Imagine his delight when he realized what an amazing discovery he made. I bet his fellow villagers threw him a parade too!

So the next time someone asks you to try something you've never had before and your initial reaction is “YUCK, NO WAY!”, think to yourself for a second about the guy and the lobster, and give it a shot. Who knows, you might throw a parade for the person who offered it to you.


  1. What about something really exotic, like monkey brains? (yes I'm thinking about Indiana Jones)

  2. I have food issues - can't have anything sweet, just nauseates me - but I'll try anything once and I've been pleasantly surprised on many occasions.

    I just don't get "I won't like it". How on earth do you know you won't like it if it has never crossed your palate?

    I have some friends that are SO far in this direction...we went to New Orleans a while back and brought back a recipe and ingredients to make some Jambalaya. Andouie (sp?), alligator, rice & seasonings, etc. We made a huge batch & had quite the party (King Cake, Hurricanes, etc). Everyone said it was great and we went through the ingredients & process and one couple was livid...

    "You KNOW we don't like seafood! How could you serve us alligator?!?"

    Too many things wrong with this statement...hello, gator is SWAMP-food, not SEA-food...and you loved it 5 minutes ago..

    Ah well, more gator for me..