“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”

Last night it rained, and it is still damp, but it’s warm. I stood out on the deck for a while after I filled the bird feeders. Gracie wandered the backyard. The snow is pretty much gone. It will be 49˚ today. The rain will be back this afternoon.

I had Chinese food for dinner last night. It got me thinking about food. I was the average kid who didn’t like a whole lot of vegetables, who found the idea of eating vegetables a parental conspiracy. Potatoes, especially mashed, were at the top of my willing and eager to eat list of foods. Canned LeSueur peas were also a favorite. My mother made us eat carrots, and I think that was it for my list of acceptable veggies. We never had salad except in the summer, and it was usually potato salad, not greenery. Italian and Chinese were the only foreign foods we all ate. The Chinese was always take-out.

It wasn’t until I went to Ghana that my palate expanded. Those two years were filled with new experiences and eating strange foods was one of them. It was there I first tasted Indian food. The restaurant, The Maharaja, looked liked what I always imagined an Indian restaurant to be. It had colorful fabrics on the walls, cushions on the floor for seating and a menu of foods totally unfamiliar to me. I read the descriptions and ordered. The food was delicious. I add Indian food to my list. Talal’s was a small Lebanese restaurant near the Peace Corps office. Volunteers ate there so often the owner made what he called a Peace Corps pizza. It was pita bread with tomatoes and melted cheese. Talal’s was where I first ate hummus and tabouli and falafel. The hummus was served on a flat plate. In the middle was sesame oil and around the top of the hummus was a ring of red cayenne pepper. I used to dip my bread in the oil and scoop up the peppered hummus. I still eat my hummus that way, with the red pepper. There was one Chinese restaurant way out of Accra, a one cedi ride which was about the highest cab fare we’d ever pay. It had an outside eating area. Going there was a treat because of the cost and we weren’t often in Accra. The restaurant was across the street from the Russian Embassy. The food was different from the Chinese food I ate at home. On later trips, I’d eat Chinese food in other countries and find the food was different everywhere from country to country. I ate Ghanaian foods all the time: t-zed, fufu, kenkey, which I never liked, kelewele, which I loved, yam, grasscutter and other foods I didn’t want identified. I ate chickens I bought live and beef of dubious age and condition: unsanitary was a given. I bought food along the road and never gave thought as to its origin. I drank water with floaties, the name we gave to bits of stuff floating in the bottles which once held beer.

After Ghana, I always tried local foods on any trip. I ate all sorts of vegetables and meats. In some countries, the less I knew the better the food tasted. I’ll try almost anything now. Innards, however, are not among them. I tried tongue once and once was enough. It was creepy looking served on a bed of lettuce as if somebody was under the table sticking his tongue out at me. I ate Rocky Mountains oysters and once was enough.

I scoff sometimes at people who won’t try new foods or old foods they didn’t like as kids, who look and never taste. They are missing the most amazing experiences: different spices and herbs, strange ingredients and foods with unknown origins. I’m glad to be a food junkie.

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20 Comments on ““He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.””

  1. flyboybob Says:

    Like you I always try the local cuisine when I travel unless it’s still alive. Oysters do take a lot of courage to eat but the results dipped in cocktail sauce is rewarding.

    When I was a kid I liked veggies and salads. My mother cooked them and we had to eat them. I never used food as a weapon against my parents like my sister, the picky eater, used food.

    I hate Indian food. I have tried it and I don’t like it because it’s too hot “spicy” for my pallet and everything looks the same in either a brown or a light colored sauce. Anyway, why would you want to pay high prices here in the US to eat third world food?

    Chinese food is the great regionalized cuisine. It’s prepared differently in different countries. The only real Chinese food I ate was in China and I compare it to the Chinese food I have found locally in authentic looking restaurants in Asian neighborhoods. Even in the ones where you are the only caucasian diner, they only accept cash and they have roasted meat hanging near the entrance the food is slightly different then what I ate in China.

    The biggest ploy is Tex Mex cooking. Everything I ever thought about Mexican food I learned at a Taco Bell. However, in Mexico the food is very different in flavor. The most interesting thing is that when I went out to eat with my Mexican friends they always wanted to eat Continental cuisine. The tacos, burritos and other Tex Mex dishes are what the poor people eat. Wealthy Mexicans eat the same stuff we eat. They just put a little salsa on the side. 🙂

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      I am not an oyster fan though I love all other shellfish, especially all sorts of clams.

      My mother made us eat carrots but no other veggies we didn’t like so there were few problems about our dinner. She picked her battles.

      Chinatown in Boston is an amazing place to eat. You have perfectly described some of the hole in the wall restaurants. They have great dim sum brunches too.

      I like street food and Mexico is filled with trucks selling food. I look for the big lines. The food is delicious and filled with meat and vegetables. I’d be disappointed by having to eat Continental cuisine. I’ll take the poor peoples’ food!

      • flyboybob Says:

        Ah, so you like real Mexican fast food 🙂 Jack in the box Tacos are not what I have in mind. In all the big cities there are food trucks everywhere serving great food at very reasonable prices. Around here there are lots of ones selling Mexican street vendor food.

      • katry Says:

        Bob,
        Mexico’s version of food trucks are often carts instead. They appear at night and are around until late. In Boston too there are food trucks-there you also look for the long lines.

        Ghana had food sellers set up along the sides of the street. Some were open all day, others only at night. It was Ghana’s version of fast food. Great food!

        I don’t think I have ever been to a Jack-in-the-Box. I don’t think I ever will.

      • flyboybob Says:

        The 24 hour emergency medical clinics that are located everywhere since doctors don’t make house calls any longer I call the doc in the box. The only thing they don’t have is a drive up window. 🙂

      • katry Says:

        Bob,
        They’re also called that around here. The one I have gone to has a few doctors, x-ray machines and such. It is a bit more complete than some of them.

  2. Jay Bird Says:

    Ah, mashed potatoes! A constant in every Irish-American household. I remember a restaurant dinner as a kid, where the menu said “two vegetables”. I ordered mashed potatoes, green beans and squash. The waiter said “only two vegetables, sonny.” I didn’t think of potatoes as a vegetable. They were just… there! Now I use Bob Evans and a microwave. Delicious, and no lumps.

    • katry Says:

      Jay Brid,
      To my father, supper was incomplete without meat and mashed potatoes. We kids didn’t complain-we loved them.

      I too buy ready mashed potatoes though I forget which kind. They are real potatoes and delicious! Add meatloaf, and it’s the perfect meal.

  3. Birgit Says:

    Where is your predicted 60˚F heatwave???
    Sunny warm spring day over here. T-shirt weather.
    When I read your post this song came into my mind and now it’s stuck in my head:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRQwKz8l7rA
    ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ I Like Chinese… ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

    • katry Says:

      Birgit,
      I’m fine with a 49˚ heatwave given we had a blizzard in mid-week. Gracie has been out all day playing in the yard.

      The video will not open in this country-I’m bummed.

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Chinese food is different from one country to another because Chinese food isn’t “Chinese”. It’s what immigrant Chinese cooks do with the food they find locally.

    I used to be a picky eater but I reformed. A friend I met early in my career was a Nederlander who had been born and grew up in Japan, married a Sri Lankan and lived in Djakarta Indonesia until she moved here after WWII. Her palate was quite international.
    She had an interesting looking sandwich one lunchtime. When she told me it was tongue I did a bletch face. She asked if I had ever eaten it and I said no. She said, very calmly, “Then do not be so prrred-jew-diced”. I realized she was absolutely right. I couldn’t say I didn’t like it if I had never tried it.
    Now I try everything at least once.
    But I still have never tried tongue. I shall have to do that one day in memoriam. 😀

    It’s dull and damp up here. The snow is melting rapidly and making little rivers everywhere.

    Enjoy the day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      That’s makes perfect sense except in Ghana where there were no typically Ghanaian foods as ingredients. There were vegetables you could only get in Accra, imported from somewhere.

      That is quite a culinary background. Talk about fusion foods!

      Tongue wasn’t tasty. I haven’t seen it since. I thought it strange it was the first course in that restaurant. It was a huge beef tongue.

      It is raining here now. The day is quite dark and ugly.

      Enjoy your Saturday!

      • Caryn Says:

        It is a bizarre looking piece of meat. I saw one in the butcher’s. It looked like a giant tongue sticking up through the crushed ice. I may have giggled just a bit. 🙂
        When (if) I try the tongue, it will probably be covered in Grey Poupon or wasabi mayo. I won’t feel a thing. 😀

      • katry Says:

        Mine was coming up through a bed of lettuce. I really was tempted to look to see who it was. It is bizarre!

        I only took a cruise once in my life as I don’t really like them. My mother took the whole family on one which went through the Panama Canal so I was hooked. We were in line at a buffet and the guy in front of me wanted the ears off the barbecued pig. I found it a bit gross as I gave my dog pigs’ ears!

  5. olof1 Says:

    I love Lebanese food and we had a Lebanese restaurant in Gothenburg where I grew up, well I think it still is there and I’ll look for it next time I visit. They could make octopus taste so delicious, something no other restaurant I’ve ever visited could.

    I do like Chinese food too, or perhaps I should say Vietnamese because I’ve read that the chinese food they serve in Sweden actually is Vietnamese 🙂

    Tongue here is usually served in slices so that image never turns up in my head but it has a strange consistence so I do avoid it even if it doesn’t taste bad at all.

    Sunny, warm and almost wind free here today and I’ve been out working in my garden a big paret of the day. The night was a bit chilly though and most things were covered in frost when I woke up. Flies woke up and they all seemed to see me as a perfect landing spot, especially when I was carrying something so I couldn’t scare them away 🙂

    Have a greatd day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      I ate octopus in a Greek restaurant. It was breaded and deep fried, but I thought they were rubbery to eat.

      Boston has Vietnamese restaurants, but there are none here on the cape. We have lots of Thai restaurants, and I have a favorite where I eat often. There is now a South African restaurant, an Indian one, Brazilian, Andean and I don’t know what else. I love the choices.

      Tongue does have a strange texture.

      It is raining now and is supposed to rain all day, lots of rain. Very little snow will survive the rain.

      Have a great evening!

  6. Bill S. Says:

    I’m trying to figure out what is inherently wrong about Bob’s comment about “third world food”.

    In Japan I had boiled pig intestines in a country food shack. I don’t consider Japan a third world country. I’m sure there are places here in the U.S. that some, including visitors to the U.S., would consider “third world”, including their food choices. I’m not sure what the difference is between “second world” and “third world” anyway.

    Diets are dictated by availability of food, tradition, and access to markets and refrigeration. Hot spices play a large part if one does not own a fridge. To dis Indian food as “third world” simply because it is too hot for your palate is inappropriate. Don’t criticize the eating habits of others with your mouth full.

    Rain here all day too.

    • katry Says:

      Bill,
      Bob is Bob. It’s as simple as that.

      I didn’t even know “third world” was used by anyone anymore. It used to be but now we go with the positive and call it the developing world, also derogatory. Developing to what? Developing by whose standards?

      I totally agree about using personal eating habits to degrade other cultures’ foods. It is just wrong. I love eating at restaurants with food from different countries. I wish many times I lived nearer to Boston so I could take the T and eat in town at some of those restaurants. Peace Corps week gives me an opportunity as RPCV Boston chooses a variety of restaurants and cultures. I usually make one of those dinners from the “third world” and love the adventure of it.


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