Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April REVolution: Food (Part 1)

April REVolution: The Food Challenge

In my original list of REVolutions, I chose April as the month to devote to food. But as March came to an end, I realized I didn’t have any idea how I wanted to approach the subject. That’s probably why I’m only getting to this on April 18! 

Let me begin by saying that I love food. All kinds of food. In fact, some of my meat-and-potatoes friends are downright appalled by my eclectic food choices. (You know who you are …) So variety is not a problem. And since deciding to eliminate vast quantities of bread from my dinner table and cut my portions to human size, quantity is not really a problem either. I also love to cook, and I choose to make a well-balanced meal five out of seven nights a week. (The other two nights we have leftovers or takeout, or dine out – preferably at a place where I can try something new and different.) So my “relationship” with food vis-à-vis preparation and nutrition is also not an issue.

So it would seem that food presents very few challenges for me and therefore makes a pretty boring topic for REVolution. Let’s face it, if the colonists had been as content with the British as I am with food, they’d have been joining them for tea instead of dumping it into Boston Harbor.

Then, just as I began to think that the month of April would pass without a single food-based REVolution, I was asked to take the “Food List Challenge” on Facebook.

For those of you who have somehow avoided being asked to participate, I’ll give a brief explanation: The Food List Challenge asks you to prove you’re a “foodie” by indicating which of 100 different foods you have tried. The app suggests that these “delicacies” represent “100 foods to eat before you die” and that most people will have only tried 20 of them.

This should be a piece of cake, I thought. (Can I check off “cake”?) I made my way down the list, happily ticking off such obscure items as Pocky (we used to get these little Japanese treats at the sushi restaurant) and Polenta (thanks, Grandma!) as well as more ordinary fare like Crab Cakes and Cheese Fondue. I was happy to report that I had tried numerous exotic dishes such as Alligator, Borscht and Calamari (though not at the same meal) and plenty of dessert items including Key Lime Pie, Hostess Fruit Pies and Funnel Cake. In total, I had consumed 62 out of the 100 items. Respectable. But nowhere near where I thought I would (or should) be. In fact, upon comparison with other Facebook friends, I found that I had not even made the top 10!
This deplorable situation must be rectified! And so begins my April Food REVolution! 

From the list of foods that I have never tried (though I may actually have had some of the foreign-sounding ones without even knowing … more on that later), it was first necessary to eliminate those items that I will never, under any circumstances, allow to pass my lips. So I happily deleted Crickets (ewwww) and Squirrel (though we had a neighbor once who was quite fond of them). 

Also stricken from the list were the alcoholic beverages, in which I choose not to indulge: Absinthe (isn’t that shit illegal anyway?), Bellini (though I might have had one back in the day, I can’t be certain) and Dandelion Wine.

There are a few items that I debated putting on my “never” list but will instead label “maybe” – those being Goat, Kangaroo, Oxtail Soup and Snake. As far as I know, our local supermarket doesn’t carry the ingredients for any of these, but should I run into them anywhere – preferably in their deceased and butchered form – I will keep an open mind.

Next, I turned to Chef Google to find out what the foreign items were, as well as some of the others I wasn’t familiar with. Perhaps I’ve actually eaten them after all.

About 15 minutes of searching yielded me several more items to add to the “never” list: Black Pudding (main ingredient: dried blood), Chitlins (pig intestines), Fugu (pufferfish – tempting, but not worth dying for), Haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs), Head Cheese (jellied meat from the head of a pig or calf) and Sweetbreads (a very nice name for a very nasty food: the edible glands or stomach of an animal).

I discovered that some of the items on the list could easily be made at home (Chicken & Waffles, Chicken Tikka Masala, Currywurst), though it might be more fun to order them at an ethnic restaurant. Other foods are rare and expensive enough that I may not have an opportunity to try them – at least not over the next month – like Bird’s Nest Soup and Black Truffle. And others I’ve likely had but just don’t remember (Moon Pie, Prickly Pear, Frito Pie).

Here, then, is my remaining list:

Bird’s Nest Soup – Chinese delicacy
Black Truffle – gourmet
Chicken & Waffles – soul food
Chicken Tikka Masala – S. Asian curry
Currywurst – German sausage & ketchup
Fried Plantain
Frito Pie
Goat (?)
Kangaroo (?)
Lassi – yogurt-based drink
Moon Pie
Nettle Tea
Oxtail Soup (?)
Paneer – Indian cottage cheese
Pavlova – meringue based dessert
Phaal – hottest Indian curry
Pho – Vietnamese noodle soup
Prickly Pear
Rabbit Stew
Snake (?)
Som Tam – spicy Thai papaya salad
Tom Yum – spicy Thai clear soup
Umeboshi – Japanese salty pickled plums
Zucchini Flowers

And now it’s time to Stop & Shop. Care to join me for dinner?

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