In today’s political climate, I should tell you that Food Bitch holds no prejudices against food or people. (Except for maybe golfers.) I understand why some people are prejudiced against certain religions or certain ethnic people; I don’t agree with it, but I understand that narrow-mindedness is an ingrained trait stemming from familial upbringing. Blame the parents. But I do not understand why people say they don’t like a food when they have never tasted it. How can you know? How can you make such a judgment? Like, who do you think you are?
Example 1––MOM: On an extremely rare night out at a restaurant in my childhood, she turned her nose up at the escargots on the menu. So at twelve years old, I knew my mom was squeamish about food. Once when she said, “I don’t like shrimp,” I replied with the question, “Oh, when did you eat shrimp, Mom?” Knowing that shrimp was something exotic, and we never had an opportunity to eat it.
“I just don’t like them.”
To which I’d feel embarrassment. My mom obviously, was very narrow-minded. At least she ate and cooked with onions though, my grandmother did not. And a childhood barren of onions could have contributed to her lack of adventure.
Later in my upbringing Mom explained that in the Bible chapter Leviticus, it turned out, many of the foods she refused to eat were listed as off-limits. Sure, she didn’t eat camel, buzzard or shellfish. But she did eat pork. My mom obviously, was also a bit of a nut.
After her divorce she got a job as a condo cleaner. She took home the food found in condo refrigerators and I believe this is how she saw how the other three-quarters lived. So I’d find in her refrigerator things like Wasabi mustard, zucchini, an orange. Just sitting there next to her usual staples of iceberg lettuce, onions, butter, squishy wheat bread and bologna. These “unusual” ingredients waiting for something to happen before the bacteria of rot settled in.
“Mom, what’s with the zucchini?” I’d say, pulling out the carton of orange juice for a rum drink. Her stock of booze was also good from her cleaning of condos.
“Well I hate to throw it away…”
“Why don’t you eat it then?”
“Well. . . ” I believe this was a struggle, her not wanting to say ‘I don’t like zucchini’ because she knew what her daughter the chef would say, so instead she said, “I don’t know what to do with it.”
And a cooking lesson would occur.
Soon, Mom was sautéing up discs of zucchini with butter and toasted almonds, steaming broccoli, and emulsifying a butter sauce for mahi or mako shark. The orange and the Wasabi became an orange-wasabi beurre blanc.
My mom, master of the butter sauce.
Later that year, I’d get a phone call, “Marisa, Star Market had shark on sale and I have some fresh broccoli, how about coming over for dinner?”
Example 2 ––DAUGHTER: One night, when she was seven, she proclaimed a sudden dislike of tomatoes. “But you’ve always eaten tomatoes,” I responded, frustrated.
Her dad said, “Eat your tomatoes if you know what’s good for you.”
“But I don’t like them, Daddy.”
“Eat them!” he barked.
She began to cry. “I don’t like them anymore and my teacher says your taste buds change every seven years.” Blubber, blubber and blubber.
“What?” I asked, “That’s ridiculous.” Sounding like my grandmother, I was certain.
After a forced father-daughter tomato eating episode, with Daughter gagging, she said it was the texture she couldn’t stand. She no longer ate bananas either, or any other fruit for that matter, unless it was juice. Damn that teacher.
“It’s just like a white broccoli,” I said to her one night at the dinner table when she was about three. I popped a forkful in my mouth and winked at her. Her eyes, fixed on me, got very large, then both eyes blinked emphatically. She was trying to wink! Without missing a beat, I popped in another forkful and winked with the other eye. “See! Cauliflower makes you wink!” And I had her. She was eating cauliflower and trying to wink, while her dad held his sides to keep the laughter in.
Although her taste buds never changed back at 14, or at 21, and still does not eat tomatoes, she has grown up to be fairly food adventurous. I get great pleasure going out for raw oysters with her.
ME: There are a few things that I prefer not to eat. Oh, it’s not that I don’t like these foods, I just prefer not to eat them. Semantics, you know.
Frog’s legs: My mom told me a story of her childhood visiting Georgia, and the adults went out hunting for frogs. (And that just sounds so weird.) When they returned, she saw them in the kitchen with their baskets of croaking amphibians. She said they killed the frogs by way of some game where two relatives sitting across from each other at the Formica kitchen table each held onto a leg wishbone style and split the live frog in two. And that is why, she said, she wouldn’t eat frog’s legs. And I found that to be a very good reason.
When I lived in New Orleans, and pretty much did all things a southerner would do, I found myself out with a gang of chefs at a catfish restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. The family- style crocks and platters of food came to our big table and fried pickles, catfish, hushpuppies, Cole slaw, beans, and frog’s legs were passed to each of us. And I knew I had to do it, at least try the frog’s legs. I could not go through life saying I didn’t like something because the generations before me had messed it up. So I took one of the little leggy things and gingerly chewed crispy fried meat from the little bone.
And it tasted like chicken. So, why not eat chicken then? The kind without all the hormones anyway. So, I’d tried a frog leg, I didn’t dislike it, I just prefer not to eat it.
Sea urchin: I tried it at a sushi bar once and it was rank and stinky. Maybe it was rotten? I’ll try it again sometime.
Bugs: I don’t think so. Bugs aren’t food, they‘re bugs and should go on eating other bugs or get sprayed with something.
Food with a higher ratio of profit to wholesomeness, as in, fast food: I’d rather starve.
Everything else, I’ll eat. Even liver! Tripe! Sweetbreads (my favorite!)