As I was digging into a jar of pickled herring the other day, I looked at the aghast faces of my family. I wish this an isolated incident, but it seems to happen with regularity.
Whether I’m chomping on sopressata, slathering German mustard on a hot Italian sausage, sucking down a slimy piece of okra, eyeing a spoonful of some tasty collard or turnip greens, or chopping up any pepper with more heat than a plain green one, foods that I think are commonplace are looked upon as revolting by the rest of my household.
The question becomes: Am I the odd one here, or do the rest of the Costs simply have the culinary range of a Brit?
Before answering that, let’s take a look at the evidence. If you could die from a protein overdose, my son surely would.
He craves meat; vegetables are his kryptonite. He’ll rip apart a turkey leg like a hungry bear, but wilt into a puddle of tears and scowls when presented with green beans. I think he has nightmares of the Jolly Green Giant stuffing asparagus down his craw.
My wife should become a hospital food tester because if hot pepper is even a cupboard or two away from where dinner is cooking, she’ll make gasping sounds and call for water.
She likes food so bland that science will want to examine her perfectly preserved taste buds when she passes on.
My daughter is the most adventurous of the bunch. She’s just recently been introduced to an exotic concoction that she seems to like quite a bit. I think the popular term for it is “salad.”
While that assessment seems harsh, I’m sure they think I’m simply a culinary weirdo and they might have a point. I’ll pretty much try anything and if it tastes good, I’ll try it again sometime.
I eat dinner leftovers for breakfast, make regular trips to the Asian market, and don’t mind organ meat. I’m actually thinking of getting a T-shirt that says, “Offal isn’t awful.” But I was raised in a culture of eating a variety of food.
My grandmother always had a meat product in a pan, a fresh veggie in a pot, and strange fish items in the pantry.
She might have served sautéed dandelion weeds next to a piece of Spam for lunch, anchovy pizza for dinner, and maybe a pickled assortment of green tomatoes next to that stinky herring my family detests as an appetizer.
Her attic had homemade salami growing mold on it and her basement was where the pickled goods were stored. There was always a full garden producing a bounty of fresh items each summer day.
This didn’t mean that I loved everything, but the hits far outweighed the misses. I didn’t really like the way I had to pick the bones out of a smelt, because I just couldn’t stand to digest them like my uncles would.
I liked the anchovies on pizza, but put them next to black olives on orange slices, and I wasn’t a fan.
For me, food isn’t just nourishment. It brings back memories and allows me to taste a culture without having to actually travel there.
When I pick a fresh tomato, I can still see my grandmother cutting a loaf of crusty bread to go along with it.
Maybe one day when my kids are on their own, they will think of me when they burp up kimchi. That is, if they ever try it.
You can reach Scott at email@example.com to discuss British cuisine.