Saturday, April 21, 2007

Offal is Awful, or The Unsophisticated Palate

I hate picky eaters. I firmly believe that, if you are over the age of breast milk (which I put at about the first birthday, though I'm willing to stretch this as long as the suckler is not old enough to ask for a drink or understand that lifting its mothers shirt gets it lunch,) you have to be willing to at least try new things.

And though I am not a parent and therefore will be immediately attacked for stating this opinion, I firmly believe that children can learn to try things they don't think they'll like, and learn to eat things that are not chicken fingers, pasta, pizza or hot dogs. (I have seen many a parent succeed in this, albeit perhaps after a strong battle of wills, so I know it can be done if you have the mettle.)

But by the time you're an adult, I believe you should be able to eat pretty much anything. You may not elect to be adventurous, but unless you're allergic to an ingredient you should be able to live with it if your host puts it in front of you, and if you inadvertently eat something with a less preferred ingredient you can gracefully finish a polite amount without making a face or letting anyone in on your secret.

Since I hold everyone else to this standard, I must live to it myself. But truth be told, I have my own list of please-god-no foods. And for you, my gentle readers, I am willing to share.

- Chevre: see last night's entry. Pleh.
- Offal: Meat may be murder but it is also delicious. However, I am four-square against the organ meats. Ick Pleh. I have made my way through a respectable portion of haggis, I have tasted sweetbreads, eaten a tongue sandwich, gulped obligatory pate canapes and once staged a coughing fit to transfer a chicken-liver-filled wonton from my mouth to my napkin to prevent public gagging at a formal dinner. I have even made it through an entire dinner of liver and onions without complaint (though I severed that friendship immediately, as I figure anyone who would serve guests liver and onions is a nitwit.) But I HATE offal. HATE IT.
- Oily Fish: Not a fan of fishy fish. I even plug my nose when I take fish-oil supplements. Oily fish makes my upper palate quiver in revulsion which, in extreme cases, can induce gagging. I've made inroads. All those years in the Pacific Northwest have trained me to eat salmon (though when I thought I'd get by with it I steered guests towards the Dungeness crab for their home-cooked meal.) And I quite like taramasalata, caviar/roe, and smoked mackerel if it's done right. But if there's a graceful way to get the caesar without the anchovy fillets I will, and the likelihood of me eating a kipper snack is, well, slim.
- Red Delicious Apples: I like my fruit either tart or tangy. Red Delicious apples taste waxy, the skin is bitter, and the flesh is mealy and bland.
- Papaya: I always want papayas to taste like mangoes, and I guess I just can't forgive them. Green papaya is good, but the rest of it? Pleh.
- Cold ketchup: Room temperature is fine, but cold ketchup makes me think of that clump of congealed red gunk around the neck of the bottle.
- Zucchini/Courgette: If you can hide it or disguise it with other flavours, I'm fine. But it is my least favourite squash and I'd be perfectly fine if it never came my way again. And I'm here to tell you you CAN taste it in the cake or bread or other baked good you're trying to smuggle it into, so don't think you're pulling a fast one.
- Oysters: Gross if you chew them, gross if you swallow them. If you want lemon and horseradish, just have that. Once had an enormously embarrassing moment in a restaurant where I put the oyster in my mouth and couldn't get it down without an eye squint and a head shake. Luckily my dinner dates found this funny and unexpected rather than rubeish.
- Tarragon: If used subtly it can be a delightful flavour. But there's a fine line, and too much is unbearable. Ditto with parsley.
- Snickerdoodles: Dumb name, stupid cookie. Maybe it's the nutmeg, though I like nutmeg fine in a pasta sauce or on custard. So it's probably the snicker. Or the doodle.

Offhand, I think that's it. Now remember, as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility. If I come over for dinner and you serve me goat cheese salad with tarragon vinaigrette, sauteed kidneys with cold ketchup and a side of zucchini, and then follow it up with snickerdoodles for dessert, we're SO over. And I'm not going to suppress the upchuck before I leave your table.

9 comments:

lulu said...

I am kind of with you on the kids should at least try things theory, but I also hate it when food becomes a huge battle ground. Fix whatever it is you want, and if the kid doesn't eat, he doesn't eat. There'll be another meal in the morning. I do think that no dinner means no treats later, but I am mean like that.

I have a short list of foods I would rather not eat, but I can pretty much force down a few bites of anything if I have to.

I was thinking that you ate oysters with Jane and I when we had drinks at the Oyster bar, but you had chowder, didn't you?

Melinda June said...

See how cagey I am? By not making a big deal of not having oysters that day you didn't even know that I despise them!

I agree about the no treats later theory, Lu. And I find most people that don't JUMP to make something else immediately if the kid doesn't like what's on offer are the ones who quickly get kids willing to try other things.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"But if there's a graceful way to get the caesar without the anchovy fillets I will"

Anchovy paste is all the rage in San Francisco restaurants and is favored by my Missus.

I completely agree with you on Red Delicious Apples. It seems like they refrigerate them year 'round and I can't remember the last one I've had that was worthy of actually eating (as opposed to juice or sauce fodder).

I love oysters and virtually anything cooked in garlic, but...

"If I come over for dinner and you serve me goat cheese salad with tarragon vinaigrette, sauteed kidneys with cold ketchup and a side of zucchini, and then follow it up with snickerdoodles for dessert, we're SO over."

...wow, sounds like a menu that the Borgias would have served to their enemies, in lieu of poison. How about Chinese take away, instead?

Melinda June said...

Anchovy paste is definitely the wave of the future, WP. And I chinese takeaway is IDEAL. I believe none of the offending items listed appear frequently in them.

Coaster Punchman said...

I didn't know your yuck list was so extensive. Thank God you've been keeping this a secret. I also am not in need of the actual anchovy fillets on the ceasar, but I do mince them for my ceasar dressing. It's just not the same without it, and doing it that way doesn't overwhelm you with fishy saltiness.

lulu said...

Snickerdoodles don't have nutmeg in them, at least mine don't. They have cinnamon. How can you not like cinnamon?

Roger Kaputnik said...

I'm not sure why my kids are so good about trying new things. Heck, my youngest picked an Indian restaurant for his good grades celebration. I'd like to think it's my great parenting but it's more likely that they simply like to strap on the ol' feed bag just like their parents and Aunt Mindy. It may also be because I heap scorn on their little pals who'll only eat chicken planks/tenders/fingers/knobs/sticks.

Anchovies have no role in a civilized society. They are one of the few things I loathe.

I wonder if your aversion to organ meets doesn't come from watching your grandmother insist on eating the chicken giblets every time we baked a chicken. Yuck.

Good liver and onions is a gift from God. Unfortunately it's almost impossible to find good liver and onions. Most people base their opinion of this dish on the stuff that was served in the cafeteria in college.

Melinda June said...

I think my aversion to organ meats comes from Mom...she made that ick/pleh face with that sputtering noise she makes and I think it conditioned me to believe they're awful.

Or maybe it's the fact that they taste like dirt and poo. Who knows?

I think your youngest picked Indian because he's fascinated by foreign things. He once spent fifteen minutes quizzing me about what big cities I've been to, if I had friends that lived in any of them, and if I would ever consider living in them. I got big points for not only going to New York, but doing it many times to visit Tom and George. This was the same day he BEGGED me to take him to lunch in the city instead of the suburbs.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"And I chinese takeaway is IDEAL. I believe none of the offending items listed appear frequently in them."

You are absolutely right except for zucchini and papaya which they will put in the takeaway in some restaurants in San Francisco. And of course, oysters. Oysters an important component in Chinese food, oyster sauce.

Fried and fresh oysters are big in Hong Kong.