Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Culinary Adventures

I love food.

I mean, really love food. I especially like to try new foods. If a restaurant is serving something I have never had before, you can be assured that is what I will order. There is so much good food out there, I never know when I may stumble across a culinary delight that I might not have already known about.

I have never understood picky eaters. I do understand that some people don't like a lot of things. There is nothing they can do about that. I won't judge. However, the people that won't even try something new baffle me. What are they afraid of? If you don't like it, you don't like it. What's the big deal?

I am not referring to people with dietary restrictions or health concerns that restrict what they can eat. I have a friend that grew up with an extremely limited diet and after a gall bladder surgery there is very little that his body will allow him to eat. He and others like him get let off the hook. The same goes for vegetarians, the lactose intolerant and people with food allergies.

I know this is not true in all cases, but many of the people that refuse to try new things are not doing it because of taste. They just have no sense of adventure or have concluded they don't like something when they don't actually know. They've decided what they eat and do not venture from it. In high school, my friend Jeff was eating dinner with my family and was halfway through his third bowl of chili when he complimented my mother on how great it was. She thanked him and replied that she was trying to get rid of the last of the deer burger we had in the freezer and thought chili would be the way to go. Jeff turned green and set the bowl down. After spitting out what was still in his mouth, he said, "What? This is deer? I hate deer!" He then ran to the bathroom to clean out his mouth.

He had already eaten three bowls and even commented on how good it was. How could he honestly say he didn't like it? However, he maintained his stance when he came back. It was hard to take him seriously.

Kirsten has a friend that has spent the night many times. On several occasions, she has walked into the kitchen as I am making dinner to ask what we're having.

"I'm making a tuna casserole."

"Oh, I don't like tuna!"

"I'm sorry. Did I say tuna? I meant chicken casserole."

I would then continue to make the tuna casserole. The great thing about this kid is I would tell her the truth halfway through the meal and she would admit "I guess I like tuna now." Good girl. 

She has eaten lots of things at my house that she claimed she didn't like. One time, after showing her disgust for something in her own home, her dad asked her why she is so picky at home when she will eat anything at my house. She answered, "Well, it's probably because Brett lies a lot." I can't deny the truth of that statement.

Any guest in my house quickly learns that I will not fix a special meal for them. They are more than welcome to share a meal with us, but they can eat what we are eating. The same rule applies to children. I raised mine that way. No child will starve himself. If my children refused to eat something, I didn't force them. However, they would not be allowed a bite of anything else until they ate what was served. Even if it took two days. They weren't picky for long and today are very adventurous eaters.

On the few trips I've made out of the country, I've been part of a group and could never understand why they would vote to go to McDonald's or Taco Bell when it came time to eat. Why would you want to eat something that you can get back home? We're in a foreign land. Let's try something local. Let's experience what this country has to offer. Of course, these are usually the same people that want to hit the local mall rather than see the sites and experience the culture.

As for myself, I will eat anything that is considered food. I would never expect people to eat some of the things that I have eaten, but anyone who says they are hungry and then turns their nose up at a plate of food doesn't have any concept of what hungry actually means. However, if you would like to have an eating adventure, accompany me into the city to find something new. This is a favorite activity of my daughter and myself. On our last outing, we ate uncooked quail eggs right out of the shell and raw eel. We weren't impressed by the eggs, but the eel was amazing.

Believe it or not, I have eaten 
something very similar to this.
I have eaten octopus on many occasions and sometimes it is raw (which is the best way to eat it). Once, like the picture above, it was still alive. The one I had was much larger.

I have eaten bear, iguana, elk, shark, moose, ostrich, earthworms, emu, dog, rattlesnake, rat, crocodile, various insects, rabbit, frog, squid, guinea pig, caterpillar, crawdads, squirrel, horse, tarantula, raccoon, dolphin, alligator, opossum, and even skunk. I've tried hundreds of different exotic fruits, vegetables, roots, and flowers that I had never even heard of until they were in front of me. Some of these I sought out, others were eaten because the opportunity presented itself. I didn't like all of them, but I never refuse to eat something. Even if I don't like it, I will finish what is served to me. You will never see me spit out food.

The DURIAN.
Banned in many public places due to the smell.
I have several specific foods on my list that I would like to try. I want to eat a durian. I have heard it described as tasting like a soggy onion. It doesn't sound good, but I know no one who has eaten one. I just have to.

I also want to eat the Japanese dish fugu. It must be prepared by highly specialized chefs who are trained to properly remove the neurotoxins of the puffer fish so as not to kill the consumer. Although, I may wait until I am highly advanced in years before I try this one.

I have a friend who has invited me over to eat balut as soon as we can find a way to get around the Illinois state shipping laws. I will not describe this dish here, but you can click its name if you're curious.

I don't expect everyone to be this adventurous, but there is so much good food that goes beyond the American standard of meat and potatoes. Try something new every now and then. You never know when you might stumble upon your next favorite.

42 comments:

  1. I agree with your philosophy and will generally try anything I can get my hands on. My list isn't anywhere near as exotic as yours but I have tried ostrich, boar, alligator, squid, octopus, and kangaroo.

    My grandma on the other hand, claimed she didn't like pizza until she tried one a couple of months ago. Nearly 80 years without eating a single pizza. That blows my mind.

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    1. I have met a few people that actually didn't like pizza. My son doesn't like chocolate. It blows the mind.

      Your grandma missed out. Pizza is a delicacy.

      What did kangaroo taste like?

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  2. I am picky. But I will also try most things, and revel in being in foreign countries and trying the local fare. I, however, will draw the line at having my food attack me. I prefer mine to be quite dead, thanks.

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    1. Being willing to try it is all I am pushing for. Good for you. You don't have to like everything, but should give it a shot.

      Having to be dead first is quite understandable. I just like to really push the limits.

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  3. I am also picky, and my mom tried the whole "eat what we have or don't eat at all" strategy, and it didn't work on me. haha I think it started when I was in preschool and the teachers forced me to eat something I didn't want to, and I promptly threw it up. lol I am better than I used to be, though I'm pretty sure I'll never be quite as adventurous as you. :)

    By the way, I didn't like pizza until I was 9 or 10. I can't imagine going 80 years without it though!

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    1. I think your mom is just too nice to do it properly. I have no problem being mean. A person will eat a turd if he gets hungry enough.

      Gage threw up while staying at my house once because there was broccoli in the dish I served. After he puked, I told him he still couldn't have anything else. He finished the plate and even asked for seconds. We had no problems the rest of the week.

      I know this doesn't work on everyone, but I have no trouble being mean.

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  4. Weird that you post this now because I recently saw a special on balut on The Food Network. Also, my friend told me about a restaurant relatively close by that serves all types of burgers (kangaroo, ostrich, alligator, emu, etc.).

    I've tried alligator, crocadile, emu, elk, bear, shark, and chocolate covered crickets (or grasshoppers, not quite sure) at a hunting convention my grandfather took to me a while back and all of it was very good. I, too, won't hesitate to try something, though I have a somewhat selective pallet. I tried squid like that before (it was dead, though) and I have to admit, I wasn't a fan. But I'll give anything a shot once.

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    1. In my mind, balut may be the most difficult thing for me to eat. It seems pretty gross. I haven't even seen it yet and I'm a little grossed out, but I will eat it and my daughter wants to do it as well.

      A lot of the tings I have tried, I have not cared for. However, there have been many that really surprised me and I couldn't wait to get more.

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  5. Growing up, our son was a very picky eater, didn't want much more than hot dogs and hamburgers. Still won't eat a pork chop which to me is sacrilegious! But I recently took him to a sushi bar and, low and behold, it turns out he likes sushi. I guess peoples' taste's can change.

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    1. No pork chops? I agree. That is sacrilegious. It's cool that he went for sushi.

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  6. I could probably eat beans and rice every day for the rest of my life. One less thing to think about. Too bad nobody else in my family agrees. So, beans and rice every other day.

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    1. I love rice and beans. I lived in Puerto Rico for a year and we ate it all the time. Plus, it's a super cheap food for when your a poor college student.

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    2. also, when you're other kinds of poor.

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  7. I don't mind trying new foods, but there are some things I just can't bring myself to try. For instance, anything that's still moving, any bugs (I can't even touch one, even when baiting a fishing hook, so there's no way I could put one in my mouth), anything with blood, or anything that requires a special chef to prepare because it's that poisonous.

    I have tried alligator, bison, rabbit, deer, frog legs, crawdad, squid/octopus, muscles and sushi (if that counts? some people won't try it), duck (not sure if that counts but it was pretty gross) and probably a few other things that I don't remember, so it's not like I'm against new foods. lol

    You might get some some ideas from the show Tabboo. I don't remember what channel it was on, but you could probably find it on Youtube.

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    1. Oh, and I've had quail. My mom wants me to try snake but we don't know who sells it.

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    2. I don't blame people for not going for the really crazy stuff. A still live octopus was stretch for me.

      I've met some people that wouldn't even try a new kind of cheese.

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  8. I'm with you on this one Brett. Picky eaters don't understand the adventure that dining can be. It's sad when children are allowed to pick and choose what will be served (usually unhealthy choices at that) and sadder yet when adults turn up their noses at 90% of what is offered on a menu. My philosophy is eat it or shut up about it and go hungry, we don't care to see you wrinkle up your nose in disdain. You've tried an amazing variety of unusual foods. Which was your most favorite and which one did you least like?

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    1. When it comes to exotic foods, I flipped over eel. It looked like rancid meat, but it was so good. If it wasn't so expensive, I would have only eaten it for the entire meal.

      Duck, while not that exotic, I did not care for. I've tried it several times and it never grew on me.

      I work in a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter and am amazed at the supposedly starving people who what eat what we are serving that day.

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  9. I tried all three of quail, swordfish and tuna ceviche while out at dinner the other week, and thought I was culinarily "progressive" for liking squid. Also I once ate a live mealworm on a dare.

    After looking at your list of accomplishments... I feel ashamed. =(

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    1. Swordfish and tuna ceviche are great. However, I don't care for quail. I am not a fan of most of the game fowl.

      Then we lived in Puerto Rico, my five year old daughter got on a squid kick. She wanted the squid cooked in ink sauce. They would milk the ink out of several squid and cook one in the ink. She loved it.

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  10. Ah food. I am adventurous, but I have not eaten red meat since 8th grade (yes, that includes pork...don't let their ad campaign fool you), and even if you deny the redness of pork, it doesn't matter: I can no longer digest red meat.

    My favorite meat, given a choice, is game-fowl: pheasant first, duck next, and I've not tried actual goose, just the pate.

    My favorite ethnic food: Indian, but then I grew up there, so...

    and p.s. I LOVE eel!

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    1. I am not a fab of game fowl. Pheasant, quail, duck or goose. They're too gamey. I can eat them, but would happily choose something else if available.

      You get the pass on not eating certain foods since it is a restriction your body put on you and it wasn't by choice.

      We should get eel together.

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  11. I like to try things I have never eaten, some I was not impressed with but many things actually surprised me, my wife on the other hand will not try anything new, she sticks with what she likes and nothing else.

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    1. I have a friend that orders the same thing at a restaurant every time. He says it's because he knows he likes it and doesn't want to spend money on something he might not like.

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    2. Sounds like my wife, she does the same thing, I like trying new things when I see them, not that I'll eat absolutely anything but I'm not afraid to try most things.

      They say when you eat rattlesnake it tastes just like chicken, does this mean after you do this, every time you eat chicken it will then taste like rattlesnake.

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    3. I should try that when I'm out with people. Every time I eat something, I'll say "This tastes like rattlesnake."

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  12. I salute you for taking the "eat anything" mantra to such extremes. I myself have very few food prejudices and always get annoyed at people refusing to try things. Especially in foreign countries I always make sure to try the local food.

    Having said that, there are some things I have a problem getting myself to eat, psychologically. Live squid would be one of them. Balut is another one... but who knows, maybe I'll get braver with time!

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    1. The really extreme stuff isn't for everyone. It's the people that won't even try something like a different kind of lettuce that drive me nuts.

      Live squid I would give a pass on.

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  13. I had a problem of eating with my eyes when I was younger. Now I'm like you, I will try anything, but I won't pay a fortune to do so. I would hate paying a bunch of money to dislike something after one bite.

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    1. Very true. You have to be careful with that. Eel was one of those things I was scared of wasting money on. It was expensive, but they had small amounts to try. Of course, since I like to try everything, I bought small amounts of a lot of things.

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  14. I would classify myself as a fairly open minded eater, but there are some things I will NEVER try. Like for instance, the aforementioned live octopus or balut. No thanks, there are plenty of other choices that I know I will like on the menu. :) My friend loves balut, but he hates Indian food. That blows my mind. Indian food is my all time favorite.

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    1. Those are examples of the extremes that I would never expect of people. Available if they want to try it, but I wouldn't think any less of them if they didn't.

      I had a friend who wouldn't eat crunchy peanut butter simply because he grew up with creamy. Had never had crunchy, but wouldn't even give it a chance.

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  15. Oh, no. No, no, no. I love food, will try most things, and one of my favorite things about traveling is trying the local cuisine. But no I will not eat anything still living, bugs, or this nasty balut business. Nope.

    But if it makes you happy, then go for it!

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    1. Trying new things is all I ask. I love ethnic foods. That's part of the joy of traveling.

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  16. I agree, I love trying new things if presented to me. However I can't let you slide on the vegetarians getting a pass, unless it's religious or dietary restrictions, vegetarians don't get a pass, what if I said I only eat meat because I don't believe in killing plants for food?

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    1. I'll let people have their convictions, whatever they may be and for whatever reason. It's the ones that are afraid to even try a radish or an apricot because they have never had one that drive me nuts.

      Sometimes people make the decision for health reasons. Red never almost eats fried foods. She's is not scared of them, she just believes it to be so unhealthy she doesn't want it in her body.

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  17. Like a lot of people here, I try to keep a pretty open mind on eating different things. I also go out of my way to try to find local dishes if I get the opportunity to travel, but I'm not sure I deal with eating something living while it was on the plate. I just don't know?

    One other thing, everybody loves chicken. If you've ever raised chickens or butchered them, those are about the most disgusting creatures going. Have you ever seen what those things scratch through to eat? It's terrible.

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    1. The octopus was a stretch and I thought they were messing with me until someone else at the table had some. It was sitting in a bowl at the center of the table and its tentacles were hanging off the sides. We didn't even cut the pieces off. Just grab a tentacles and bite off the end.

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  18. Adventurous eaters unite! So many of my friends think I'm weird because I cook beef tongue on purpose. Wimps. That's nothing compared with live octopus. Not sure I could manage that one, but it looks like they usually eat balut as a late night snack with beer. I'd try it...

    And if you ever ride through Southwest Virginia, get in touch. They have durian in the freezer at the local Asian market. They also have durian-flavored popsicles. I haven't tried either yet.

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    1. That would be great. I didn't even know they could be obtained in the States.

      Trying new things is great. I have things I love, but don't one to eat the same things for the rest of my life.

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  19. I enjoy new foods but must say there are days when I am not as open to trying something new. It is like shopping, I need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the experience.

    My family does not want to eat lamb (I love) or even veal because "they are babies!". I should try the lying until they have eaten it. I also really enjoy game fowl but think most foods depend on how they are prepared. When I tried octopus it was tough and rubbery.

    Hestia

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    1. Octopus is all in how it's prepared. It can definitely be rubbery, but when prepared right, it just falls apart in your mouth.

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