Posted tagged ‘tabouli’

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

March 29, 2014

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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