Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday rant - Fried Cockroaches

Ok, so I've never actually heard of people really eating fried cockroaches, but it got your attention, didn't it? ;)

This post is actually a rant about people who are unwilling to try new things. Fried cockroaches are an extreme example, but given the choice between a fried cockroach or eating a raw egg, I think I might actually go with the fried cockroach. I think it would just taste fried. Given the roach wasn't crawling around in garbage and all that. Ok, I'll stop talking about bugs now.

What mystifies me is people (especially those who live in big cities) who haven't even heard of some pretty mainstream ethnic foods. Take couscous, for example. This is basically pasta, just in a different form. And I had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday who honestly had no idea what it was. But that's just about exposure. If they haven't heard of it, that doesn't mean they're unwilling to try it, necessarily.

What I have trouble understanding are the people who automatically reject the idea of a food before they've even tried it (and I'm not talking fried cockroaches here). Sushi I can kind of understand, just because the idea of raw fish is disturbing to some people. I still think they should try it before they say something like "I don't like sushi" or "I couldn't possible eat raw fish" because the thing is, it doesn't taste like it's raw meat. If they try it and don't like it, then I'm totally cool with that. But don't tell me you don't like something if you've never tried it.

Case in point, I was at a big family gathering about four years ago. My father and I were trying to decide what kind of food to order for everyone, and I suggested Chinese food (I'm talking greasy mainstream Chinese food here). So that's what we got. And my uncle (who's from Florida near Disney) came up to me after dinner and asked me if it had been my idea to order Chinese food. I said it was, at which point he said he'd never had it before (he was 52 years old!) and had quite liked it. I must admit I was flabbergasted. We're not talking something really out there and exotic. I would understand if he hadn't tried Ethiopian food, or Brazilian, Egyptian, Russian, even Japanese. But Chinese is one of the most common kinds of take-out foods there is in this country. He then said he'd driven by Chinese places near home and kind of turned up his nose at them. Perfect example of someone who'd completely judged food without even trying it. I just don't understand.

I know that I grew up in a city with a lot of international food options. My parents regularly took me out for sushi when I was young (though I stuck with just rice and nori rolls, since I didn't like the taste of fish until I was older), and I've been lucky enough to be exposed to a fair amount of foreign travel (and therefore foreign foods) to expand my horizons. But I just don't understand why people just assume they won't like a food just because it's different than the food they regularly eat. Is it just my liberal mindset that I'm willing try (almost) anything?

Is there anything in particular you just wouldn't be willing to try, even once? What's the wackiest thing you've ever eaten?

On my list (some not so wacky, but people still look at me strangely when I say I've eaten them): horse meat, elk, rabbit, ostrich (slim jim style), flowers, mexican-spice dried worms, chocolate covered ants

(As a note: I totally made up fried cockroaches out of thin air. But it turns out that people do really eat them in Southeast Asia. Now, whenever I get to Southeast Asia on vacation, I'm going to have to try them, so I don't turn into a big hypocrite....)


jeffg said...

It is mostly in my head*, but I have trouble with meat from animals that aren't typical 'Murican eatin' animals ... it just "seems gross" and that can be a hard thing to get over.

* I really don't like gamey flavors though, a byproduct of spending a lifetime eating overly processed, farm raised animals. Sometimes these flavors find their way into more standard meats and I have trouble w/ those as well, but that's not a mental thing.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

I must admit I generally prefer the normal meats like beef, chicken, fish, pork, etc. I do like lamb to punch up the flavor in chili. I tried the elk in Alaska and while I did like it, the taste of it stayed with me for a long time, so I probably wouldn't eat it on a regular basis.

I think for me, it depends what animal it is. I wouldn't be able to eat dog or cat because of the obvious associations. I'd try most meat once (maybe not blowfish because I don't like living that much on the edge). I'm thinking hard of something apart from pets that I wouldn't eat. I've had pigeon (and I sincerely hope they didn't just get annoyed at local street pigeons and shoot and cook them, and that they were in fact raised in coop to be clean).

I'm kind of curious to try snake.

Leah J. Utas said...

Kangaroo, witchetty grub, musk ox, reindeer sausage, candlefish (eaten whole), some kind of ant in Costa Rica, and several non-traditional food berries like buffalo berry as well as other edible plants including, but not restricted to, the leaves of the young yarrow plants in a salad. Very peppery. Ohh, and the seeds of the sweet cicely plant, very licoricy, chocolate right off the tree, and coca leaf tea. Unless the mere mention of the word turns my stomach I'll probably try it.

Tiffany said...

I live in a small town and I get looked at as being "weird" for being vegetarian and when I bring up "health" foods or anything out of ordinary people give the the "drrr.." kind of look. I love trying new things and I will try almost anything (except meat), although I do eat seafood.

I definatley didn't get this trait from my family though, they were more of the ground beef kind of family who sticks to the same meal after meal. I wish I lived in a bigger city that offered more ethnic foods because I love eating out at ethnic restaurants but they have to wait until I go into the city!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Leah, you've eaten lots of really cool foods! I don't even know what some of those things are! What does chocolate right off the tree taste like? Does it taste just like chocolate? Or does the candifying process change the flavor?

Tiffany, I've had that experience in smaller towns, where I actually drove around for an hour looking for a restaurant besides the normal chains. I suppose the big city has spoiled me :) It must be harder to be a vegetarian in a small town? Or is vegetarianism mainstream enough now that it's pretty easy outside the city?

Charlotte said...

I'm with you! I'll eat ANYTHING if you call it a cultural experience. In fact, I am so enamored of variety in my cuisine that my poor family suffers through my experiments (suffering due to my lack of culinary ability, not the foods themselves) on a regular basis. Craziest things I've eaten? Rattlesnake. Shark. Raw eel. Prickly pears. Cactus. Rabbit head (don't ask). Locusts fried in butter. Purslane I picked out of the cracks in my neighbor's driveway. Mole. (as in Mexican, not the wee animal).

Let's have dinner sometime!

MizFit said...

I laugh that in my own city Im probably far less adventurous.
Get me on a trip?



Leah J. Utas said...

Chocolate off the tree is bitter. It is the seed of a large fruit. There's a bit of slimy stuff around the seed which is good to eat as it moderates the bitterness.

Crabby McSlacker said...

I am probably middle of the road when it comes to adventurousness. I'll try new ethnic dishes and unfamiliar meats and grains and vegetables--but would need some encouragement for something like insects--someone I trust saying, "no really, it's good!"

But I'll definitely generalize from my known dislikes. I don't like organ meats, so I wouldn't, for example, try monkey brains no matter how good someone said they were.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Charlotte, that's an awesome list! I've never had raw eel, but I've had smoked eel (sushi), and I've tried shark too. I think I bought some shark steaks at the grocery store and they were pretty much like fish. I also had shark fin soup once at a Chinese celebration dinner. Where do you find the out-of-the-ordinary foods you make? I don't see many of those things in the grocery store (though there is a chinese grocery store that has some unusual things). I have to ask about the rabbit head - seriously, you can't drop that bomb and give no details! ;)

Miz, vacation is the perfect time to try new tastes! Especially because they have interesting new ways to cook it!

Leah, that's so interesting! I think that we get so disassociated from what the food is like when it's living/growing/etc that it can sometimes be surprising what it's like in that state. I heard about kids refusing to eat veggies pulled from the ground because they didn't believe that that's really where veggies came from!

Crabby, I'd think twice about monkey brains too! Especially what with diseases now like mad cow (dunno if monkeys have a similar thing, but given that eating cow's brains (or recycling it into the feed to give other cows) spreads that, I'd be a little less than gung-ho about trying brains...

JavaChick said...

You know that sushi doesn't have to be raw fish, right? It can be all veggies, or it can be cooked fish, tofu, cooked egg...

I have tried sashimi (raw fish) even though I do have that mental block that tells me that fish was not meant to be eaten raw - I wouldn't eat any other meat raw, why fish? I did try it. I won't say it tasted bad, but I didn't care for the texture.

I'm not all that experimental with meat. I have a hard enough time with the mainstream meats that I grew up eating.

This past weekend I did try Buffalo burgers. I really tried to eat it, but I only managed 3 or 4 bites. I really didn't like the taste.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Javachick, that's a really good point that a lot of people overlook - shrimp and crab in sushi is always cooked, and eel too. Then there are the chicken ones or vegetarian (my stepsister and stepmother really like sweet potato sushi). I know a lot of people don't like the texture of raw fish in sushi (but you've tried it, and that's what counts!). I actually don't like the texture of most veggies in sushi, they're too crunchy for me (that's why I tend to like avocado in maki instead of cucumber).

Oooh, buffalo burgers, that sounds interesting!