Its time for me to come clean about my most deep and personal shame.
For a foodie, there is a lot of food that I don’t eat. A list the existence of which I hate to acknowledge, a list of things widely touted as so delectable that people think of them as the pinnacle of perfection. And I’m not allergic to anything, and I don’t have political agendas against how the foods are attained or prepared, and I’m not restricted by religious beliefs.
I just don’t like ‘em.
Now, I don’t think you need to be Andrew Zimmern to effectively fit yourself into the foodie category, I know plenty of serious chefs and gourmands who aren’t going to tuck into insects and four year old putrefied shark. But despite having once eaten two live termites (a story for another day), my issue isn’t with extreme eating. It’s with stuff that most people find delicious, and I’m always afraid of that moment with someone who doesn’t know me when I have to tell them the stuff I don’t eat.
It would be like having to tell someone that, while you happily acknowledge your sex addiction, you aren’t interested in S&M, porn, toys, erotica, threesomes, and will only do half of the positions in the Kama Sutra. Your street cred would suffer significantly.
Same for me. I swear that I’m a foodie, I have over 70 herbs and spices stocked in my cabinets. I have Korean black garlic and Mugolio in my pantry. I have equipment and gadgets galore (but, as a true foodie, rely most on a set of a few basic tools to work magic in my kitchen). I am prepared, by virtue of a good stock of staples, to make a hearty delicious meal at the drop of a hat. I believe in making homemade stock, in using top notch ingredients prepared to best heighten their natural goodness, and that good food made with your heart is one of the truest forms of love. I subscribe to eight cooking magazines. I collect cookbooks and read them like novels. And the two guys I would most like to go on a road trip with are Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman. But as much as I want to be the Batgirl in that trio, I fear that I would be woefully unprepared. Because an essential part of the food experience that those two enjoy the most is stuff that, quite frankly, would make me ralph.
And which is worse, the embarrassment of having to tell them the stuff I don’t eat, to admit out loud to two of my greatest culinary heroes that, not to put too fine a point on it, I can’t hang….that is too much to bear.
I don’t feel overly bad about the offal thing, after all, variety meats seem to be the one area that people can get a pass on. With the possible exception of foie, which I wish like heckfire I liked, but I simply cannot get behind it, and nothing is worse than the look on a fellow foodie’s face when you pass on the pâté.
Here, in general terms and no particular order, is the list of stuff I just can’t get it up for:
Offal or variety meats (liver in all forms, any organs, blood, tongues, black sausages, haggis, headcheese, feet, ears, snouts etc.)
Blue or overly stinky cheeses. And I really wish people would stop telling me that they "have a blue so mild it will change my mind." It will not. It will make me want to barf in my purse. And while I love the ooey gooey goodness of brie and camembert and other soft-ripened beauties, I am one of those annoying people who either cuts off the white rind, or scoops the middles out. I know. I'm the bane of your cheese tray.
Raw tomatoes or tomato juice (love them cooked in every possible application), ditto raw onions of every variety (pickled is fine, and I cannot get enough of them cooked)
I find avocados to have an unpleasant mushy mouth feel and taste weirdly like bland oil to me, so I pass on the guac. Okra is too slickery to consider. Beets used to make me gag in every preparation except thinly sliced and fried into chips...something about them makes me think of sweet dirt, but I haverecently become a convert to baby beets, preferably roasted and I definitely like the chiogga and golden ones better than the dark purple ones. Eggplant is also on the list, the only exclusion to the ban being my own ratatouille galette, where the japanese eggplants are sliced so paper thin and shingled with zucchini, yellow squash, and plum tomatoes so that they are barely noticeable, and tempura,which tastes mostly of fried anyway.
Shellfish, including oysters, mussels, clams, crabs, shrimp and lobsters (with the exception of squid, scallops and octopus, and very occasionally the deep fried versions of above)
“Fishy” fish, including salmon (I know, a Jew who hates Lox, its ridiculous), cobia, swordfish etc. I like all the firm white-fleshed fishies like halibut, cod, grouper, sea bass, snapper, etc. I like tuna out of a can, packed in oil, or cooked to medium, but can’t abide it raw or rare, so I never order it out, since I know that asking a chef to cook it through is an insult to both chef and fish. Actually can’t really abide any fish rare or raw, and I think seaweed tastes the way those little cans of fish food flakes smells, so despite wishing like mad to love sushi, I tend to be a tempura/udon/teriyaki kind of girl. (I am, however, open in this area and hope one day to find the right person to gently guide me in finding stuff I would like…I’ll keep you posted on the Great Sushi Search)
Peppers. Sweet or hot. Green, red, yellow, white, purple, orange. Roasted or raw. Ick. If I accidentally eat them raw I burp them up for days, and cooked they smell to me like old armpit. Of all of them, I can occasionally stomach some red pepper, I even use a bit in my confetti rice salad, but I still sort of eat around it.
Eggs with distinct white/yolk separation….scrambled, in quiche, frittatas, and in omelettes is fantastic, but soft boiled, hard boiled, fried, over easy, poached, coddled…not so much. Makes it difficult when everybody and their brother is topping every damn dish with something poached or soft-boiled these days.
Overly peaty mushrooms. I like a chanterelle, oyster, enoki, hen of the woods…but anything with real pungent mushroomy flavor puts me off. So anytime that flavor is concentrated, mushroom soups for example, deep powerful yuucchh. Shockingly, one of the appetizers I often serve to great acclaim is one I invented but cannot eat....fresh portobellos with the gills removed, stuffed with pate and cut like a tiny pizza, glazed with cabernet jelly and garnished with sage. I hear it is fantastic.
Spicy isn’t so much a preference as a physical necessity. In addition to my chronic and severe gastric reflux, I also have no gallbladder. (TMI?) When my gallbladder and I divorced several years ago, it got custody of anything spicier than my own fairly mild chili, my friend Doug’s sesame noodles, and that plastic Velveeta-Ro-Tel dip that I probably shouldn’t admit to liking. I’m allowed very occasional visitation rights, but only at my own risk. I am also a total sice wuss, ex-gallbladder or no, so stuff that you think is not spicy at all blows the top of my head off.
Black Pepper. I find it acrid and burnt tasting and would love to kneecap the guy who decided that every dish served to one in a restaurant ought to come with the offer of freshly ground pepper from something the size of a Louisville Slugger. I season with salt, herbs and spices, and instead of pepper I use Grains of Paradise, which I adore as much as I dislike BP.
I continue to taste these things (except for the offal, I just have given up) periodically, just to be sure. And when I am lucky enough to be somewhere exceptional (Alinea, Charlie Trotter's , The French Laundry et al) for a tasting menu, I do just that, I taste. And while I can often say in those places “That wasn’t so awful for ________.”, the experiences just don’t convert me. They are the exception that proves the rule.
I had a scientifically-inclined buddy who said that the people who think cilantro tastes like soap (oh, yeah, that’s on the list too…) actually have a certain salivary enzyme that other people don’t have. He also noted that a huge percentage of the stuff I don’t like seems to have a certain minerality taste in common, especially the offal/mushroom/strong cheese families, and that perhaps it is that which puts me off.
I’d love for it to have a medically-defined causality, then maybe the boys would forgive me and let me hold the bat-maps and pack the bat-snacks. Especially since we are all fans of pork rinds. Oh to just be able to say to someone, with the same simplicity as saying one keeps Kosher or is vegetarian...I'm sorry, I have ________. No long explanations, no embarrassment. I wonder what we could call it? I’ve been blaming my terrible sense of direction on a Magnetite deficiency for years….maybe I have Gastronomitis?
There is plenty that I do eat, of course, my tush is a testament to that. And enough off the beaten path stuff that I can hopefully at least avoid philistine status. I love game meats, squab and quail and pheasant and venison, yum. Ostrich, delish. For my tenth birthday I requested duck with cherry sauce. I keep duck fat in my freezer, along with three kinds of bacon. But I fear that my condition still might keep me from my Batgirl cape.
I will say to AB and MR…there are some really excellent qualities I bring to the table. I love a good cocktail and a nice wine pairing, but can’t drink to excess anymore (see aforementioned reflux/gallbladder issue) so you’ll always have a designated driver, and I promise to be careful with the Batmobile. And with me not eating a lot of the stuff you like best, there will be more for you! I’m a great sous, tell a good dirty joke, love football, and I’m not high maintenance. Plus I live in Chicago, one of the alltime great food towns and a good jumping off point for any adventure.
Surely that at least should get me a Batgirl audition, no?
Your turn…what don’t you eat that you hate to admit to?